Some vegans are very against having pets.
Most are fine with it, and many do indeed have pets. I have 2 cats myself.
I’m going to lay out the arguments for and against vegans having pets, and then you can decide for yourself where you stand.
Arguments Against Vegans Having Pets
After reading through countless forum and social media posts about vegan pet ownership, I found 2 main arguments against it.
You can agree with some of these things, even if you’re fine with having pets.
Many Pets Come From Breeders (i.e. Puppy Mills)
This is a big problem for dogs especially, but there are cat breeders as well.
These are people who purposely breed dogs and cats to sell for profit. One thing that most vegans can agree on is that breeders are bad.
There are 2 main problems with breeders.
First, in the U.S. alone, about 1.5 million animals are euthanized, mostly from a lack of resources. While this is decreasing (2.6 million in 2011), it’s still an insane amount.
If you get a pet from a breeder (or a pet store that gets animals from breeders), it’s one more animal that won’t be adopted from a shelter and may be put down.
Secondly, breeding is usually not the best for the animals’ health. Breeding is typically done for appearance, or to maintain purity, which can cause serious genetic defects.
Additionally, while some breeders do genuinely care for their animals, some puppy mills keep animals in terrible conditions (search for “puppy mill bust” if you want to see some”).
Vegans Are Against Ownership of Others
A core component of veganism is that all individuals should have certain rights, like freedom.
As it is today, pets are “property” of their owners.
The question is whether or not you treat pets like property.
Some vegans argue that it’s only okay to live with pets if they are free to come and go as they please.
This is a tricky grey area to me.
I don’t let my cats be “true” outdoor cats, because outdoor cats don’t live nearly as long as indoor cats for obvious reasons. I also don’t want them killing birds, mice, and other animals outdoors, which would result in more suffering.
But, I do take them for walks when they want to go out, usually for a few hours a day in nice weather. To me, this is an acceptable compromise because it’s in their best interest.
I’m sure some vegans would say this is still not okay, but it’s the best solution in my mind. Ultimately, you’re going to have to make up your own mind as well.
Vegans Shouldn’t Have Animals That They Have to Feed Meat To
This is the argument that’s most conflicting for me personally.
On one hand, I would do anything for my cats, but it kills me that other animals have to suffer for them to eat. Side note: dogs can be vegan safely, but the research is not clear whether cats can be vegan at this point.
After a lot of thought here’s how I justify feeding cats meat, you may or may not agree:
- Less suffering of wild animals – If I let my cats be fully outdoor cats, they’d be killing nearby birds and mice (I live right next to a field with them) on a regular basis. Those lives aren’t more/less important than the ones killed for commercial cat food, but it’s a substitute. Either way, animals are getting hurt, and at least I know my cats aren’t playing (i.e. torturing) them once injured.
- Commercial cat food mostly uses less desirable meat – Humans are picky about what meat they eat, so a lot of the leftovers go into pet food or are thrown away. Of course, this still contributes to the profit of animal agriculture, so it’s not great.
Ultimately, no robust study has shown that cats can be healthy while being vegan, so they have to eat meat. Where it comes from is the source of this issue, and personally, I’m okay with feeding my cats meat until a better solution like lab-grown meat becomes available.
Dogs on the other hand, can be quite happy as vegans. There are many high quality vegan dog foods available.
Arguments FOR Vegans Having Pets
There’s really only one argument I can come up with for getting a pet as a vegan: you can give them a better life.
From a vegan perspective, you want to reduce animal suffering.
Once in a shelter, there are only 2 outcomes for an animal: to be adopted/fostered, or to die.
There’s nothing vegan about having animals die in a shelter, likely scared and uncomfortable because of the unfamiliar and limited surroundings. But you have the chance to “rescue” them.
If you just let them run free again, they’ll end up back in the shelter, so the only alternative is to “own” them.
By adopting (perhaps rescuing is the better term here) an animal from a shelter, you’re giving it the chance to be healthy, happy, and loved.
While I don’t have any evidence to back it up, I would guess that vegan pet owners are more caring and considerate of animals, because they won’t treat them as property. Instead, they become family that you would do anything for.
Summary: Vegans Aren’t For or Against Owning Pets
There’s no unified stance on this issue, but in general, most vegans think it’s fine to have pets, as long as you get them from shelters and treat them as individuals, not property.
Being a responsible “owner” allows you to give a pet the best life possible that wouldn’t happen without you.