Andrew KnightUniversity of Winchester, United Kingdom
Title: Should dogs and cats go vegan?
The environmental impacts of meat-based pet food (e.g., land and water use, fossil fuel consumption, greenhouse gas production, pesticide and fertilizer use, and impacts on biodiversity loss), are globally significant. Given increasing pet ownership globally, ‘food’ animal use for pet food is rising. However, alternative pet foods based on novel protein sources, such as plants and seaweed, insects, yeast, fungi and laboratory grown meat, are rapidly developing. Vegan pet foods are most developed. These use plant, mineral and synthetic sources to supply necessary nutrients. In 2020 I surveyed 4,060 dog or cat guardians to investigate determinants of pet food purchasing decisions, as well as health, behavioural and other outcomes using different diets. I also surveyed 29 pet food manufacturers to determine whether nutritional soundness and quality control of plant-based pet foods differed from meat-based diets. Results from these and other studies indicate that the healthiest and least hazardous pet foods are nutritionally sound vegan diets. Detailed analysis of feeding behaviour indicates dogs and cats generally find such diets as palatable as conventional diets. And manufacturers of plant-based pet foods appear to adhere to quality control standards at least as good as those used in the creation of conventional diets. The environmental and animal welfare benefits of plant-based and alternative diets are profound. These factors are driving a rapid expansion of this sector.
Andrew Knight is a European, American and RCVS-recognised Veterinary Specialist in animal welfare. He worked in UK small animal practice for nearly a decade, prior to teaching for two years at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in the Caribbean, from 2013 – 2014. In 2015 he established the University of Winchester Centre for Animal Welfare in the UK, where is Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, and leads a very popular distance learning MSc in Animal Welfare, Behaviour, Ethics and Law. Andrew is also an Adjunct Professor in the School of Environment and Science at Griffith University, Queensland, where he completed his PhD on scientific and educational animal use and alternatives, in 2010. Andrew has numerous academic and popular publications, several websites and a large series of social media videos, and has delivered over 200 presentations internationally, on animal welfare issues. His books include The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments (2011) and the Routledge Handbook of Animal Welfare (2023). The 36 chapters of the latter contributed by 50 authors, cover most topics included within veterinary specialist curricula in animal welfare, within Australia and internationally, and is fully open access. Andrew’s recent research focuses on vegan companion animal diets.