I have been a vegetarian for 22 years, vegan for 12 of those. The vegetarian choice began in college, when I had an amazing philosophy professor engage me and enable me to question why we do “things”. Many people go through life without thinking about the “why’s”- why do we not think about what we are eating? why are we are conditioned to eat meat? why do we support this cyclic cruel industry? etc. I turned vegan after visiting the Farm Sanctuary in New York, meeting the rescued animals and learning what they go through in life. I used to think it was OK to still consume dairy products, as, in theory, no animal was being killed. What I learned was, in many ways, the dairy industry is worse. For example, in a factory farm the cows are slaves, constantly kept pregnant to secrete their milk through machines in their tiny crate areas. Sad, but so true!
So yes, my decisions in the beginning were based on compassion. If you follow this line of thinking throughout your daily life, keeping compassion in your forethoughts, you begin to ask yourself: does it make sense to support the meat-based pet food industry? This is something I had to come to terms with as a dog owner. I know humans can survive on a plant-based diet, in fact, thrive on one, but I had to make sure this could be the case with canines. I read and researched, and then read some more. I wanted to verify that my findings were not biased so I enrolled in a canine nutrition course, learning the in-depth physiology and nutritional needs of the canine. As it turns out, our dogs are a lot like us.
Classified as omnivores, they can exist and thrive on a plant-based diet if, of course, receiving their nutritional requirements. According to James O’Heare, a leading dog behaviorist (www.jamesoheare.com), “The fact is that ALL essential nutrients required in the dog’s diet can be met without any animal products whatsoever. Every single essential amino acid, fatty acid, carbohydrate (for energy), vitamin, and mineral can be provided quite adequately in a vegan diet in sufficient quantity and in reasonably bioavailable form for them to thrive.”
This is why I began to create and prepare my dogs meals from plant-based sources (not even taking into consideration the contamination, chemical additive and by-product issues with packaged foods). Success in preparing homemade meals lies in the correct balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. One must understand these requirements and variables such as chemical scores and digestibility to provide an optimum, cruelty and chemical-free diet for your companion. No lies, it takes time to learn this, and even more time to prepare the meals, but it is a labor of love and compassion, and this type of labor is worth it every time!
Shannon Lynn Fisher is an avid dog lover and rescue mom. As vegetarian for 22 years, vegan for 12 of them, Shannon began to question the cruelty behind the meat-based pet food industry. In her quest for knowledge, Shannon extensively researched the viability of feeding her dogs a pure plant-based diet, including enrolling in an intense Canine Nutrition Certification Program through the Companion Animal Sciences Institute. Feeding her dogs a homemade diet for the past 7 years, she has continuously improved on the past recipes and has actively been creating new ones to keep her kids “licking their chops”. Shannon is in the process of publishing a book Coping with Dog Loss that will be out in 2013, and is working on a Dog Recipe book that will be out in 2014. In the meantime, you can keep up with Shannon and view her blog at: http://bowwowpowwow.wordpress.com.