The Los Angeles City Board of Animal Services Commissioner is considering a proposal from vegan animal lovers in regards to the city's many animal shelters. Advocates like lawyer Lisa Bloom and musician Moby are urging the city to make all the meals consumed by dogs in shelters completely vegan, The Washington Post reports.
“If we adopt this, it’s one more thing that proves to the world that Los Angeles really is the progressive capital,” Moby told the board during the testimony on November 28.
As with human diets, the wisdom of eradicating all animal products from a dog's diet is widely contested.
As the Post notes, there is a current fad for "grain free" animal food, suggesting that dogs, at least, have the same dietary needs as their carnivorous ancestor, the wolf. In reality, this is more of a marketing ploy than anything else. Dogs are quite capable of digesting grains, and most do well with an omnivorous diet. However, producing a high quality vegan meal for dogs is not easy.
The city’s chief veterinarian, Jeremy Prupas, is against the move. In a report citing numerous studies, Prupas rejected the proposal, writing, "We recognize that individual, privately owned dogs can do well on a wide variety of diets (Commercial, Vegetarian, Organic, Grain-free, Gluten-free, Raw, and Vegan). However, that is quite a different population than the group of dogs we encounter daily in our animal shelters.”
Prupas said he spoke with "three clinical nutritionists at veterinary medical schools, one shelter medicine specialist and a veterinary toxicologist who works with a pet food company" and none recommended a dog be put on a vegan diet.
Most dog food is made from meat byproduct, usually from slaughterhouses producing meat eaten by humans, and it is generally mixed with grain. Currently, Los Angeles buys from Canidae Life Stages, paying $0.87 per pound for kibble. The only company the city is contracted with that could provide vegan food would cost four times that amount. Additionally, shelter workers are concerned that vegan meals would shift the amount of waste dogs produce, by wreaking havoc on their digestion. That would raise cost in clean up time considerably.
For what it's worth, Lisa Bloom says her dogs have had no such issues on their vegan diet.
The original proposal came from Commissioner Roger Wolfson, who was focused more on the environmental factors of meat production, than the immediate concern of dogs.
“We have to embrace the fact that the raising and killing of animals for food purposes must only be done if we have absolutely no other choice,” Wolfson testified. “This is about the long-term survival of every man, woman and child in this room, and all of the people in our lives.”
While meat production has a considerable impact on the environment, and meat consumption can have an extremely negative impact on people's health, there's not much proof that the cost of vegan dog food would absolutely be worth it in balance—especially if it hampered a shelter's ability to function financially. How the board decides could have larger implications for how we think about animal care, and what it means for the planet to maintain the health of our pets.