How Many Vegan Pets Are Out There?
As meat-free diets become more mainstream, an increasing number of owners are interested in adopting the vegan lifestyle for their pets according to a new survey.
The report was conducted by the University of Guelph’s Veterinary College and published in the journal PLoS One. It surveyed 3,673 global dog and cat owners online about the food they feed themselves, as well as their pets.
The survey found that 35 percent of pet parents who gave their animals conventional diets were interested in converting to a vegan diet, which means no meat, dairy or fish.
“People have been hearing about how vegan diets are linked to lowered risks of cancer and other health benefits in humans. There is also growing concern about the environmental impact of animal agriculture,” said lead author Dr. Sarah Dodd in a statement.
More than half of respondents (55 percent) had some conditions, though, before making the switch. These requirements include further evidence that a plant-based diet would meet pets’ nutritional needs; approval from veterinarians; and accessibility of vegan pet foods.
Less than six percent of survey participants were vegan. Of the vegan respondents, 27 percent said they already fed their pets a meat-free regime. Among the rest of the vegans, 78 percent were keen to switch their animals to a similar diet.
Lead author Dr. Sarah Dodd, currently a PhD candidate at the OVC's Department of Population Medicine, said even she was surprised by how many vegans had already chosen to eliminate meat from their pets' diets.
Noting that 27 percent might seem like a small number, Dodd explained, “when you think of the actual numbers of pets involved, that's huge, and much higher than we expected."
A total of 1.6 percent of the dogs and 0.7 percent of the cats included in the survey were being fed a strictly plant-based diet, with only vegans and one vegetarian choosing to feed their plant-based diets exclusively. Another 10.4 percent of the dogs and 3.3 percent of cats are fed vegetarian diets or plant-based foods intermittently.
Of the 3,673 pet owners surveyed, six percent were vegetarian, four percent were pescatarian, and nearly six percent were vegan.
Previous studies have also shown that pet owners tend to offer the same kind of diets to their dogs and cats that they adopt for themselves. "So, while only a small proportion of pet owners are currently feeding plant-based diets to their pets, it is safe to say that interest in the diets is likely to grow," Dodd explained.