There’s a new movement in the dog community – veganism. But are dogs being forced to forego meat against their will? Emily Writes met some dogs to get into the (meat-free) bones of the matter.
Buddy* is a six-year-old golden labrador. He’s extremely interested in balls and has a PHD in Owner Behaviour at Canine University. He is wearing a blue bandana which he apologises profusely about.
“Look, they put this bandana on me. I’d personally prefer a tie. I don’t feel like I’m taken seriously in the dog academic community wearing this.”
He is tense. Speaking out about owners is very frowned upon among dogs. I have been met with much aggression over writing this story, and Buddy has asked that his real name not be used.
Stuff has reported that an increasing number of dogs in New Zealand are now vegan and vegetarian as more owners consider the sustainability and ethics of eating meat. Buddy was studying this trend when his owner suddenly presented him with a bowl of carrots.
“It was then I knew,” Buddy barks, “I was now no longer the researcher. I was the subject.”
For two months now, Buddy has been vegan. His diet has gone from what he calls “some kind of chicken, beef, fish combination I was quite fond of” to “carrots”.
Buddy’s voice becomes a whisper: “I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud, but I don’t feel the same way about my owner.” He suddenly lets out an anguished howl. This is a painful conversation for him.
“Look,” he passionately assures me, “if he threw a ball would I chase it? Yes, of course I would! Would I be happy and bark when he opens the door? Yes. I’m a dog.”
“I’m still a dog,” he says quietly.
“But he’s making me eat carrots.”
The stress in the vegan and vegetarian dog community has seen pop-up support groups spring up around the country. In one region, I was able to sit in on a meeting. Again, the names of these dogs have been protected as they were very worried about their reputations. Except Princess, because there are so many dogs called Princess.
A four-year-old bichon frise, Princess is dragging on a cigarette. “My life is hard now. I am a bichon frise, my life is meant to be easy. I’m meant to be a princess!” she says angrily. “My owner is shitting me to tears. I fucking hate pears you feel me?”
Her outburst has a dalmatian, who we will call Spot, running around in circles. “You can’t talk about owners like that man!” he yelps. “What if they hear about this and stop coming home from work? And we just wait by the door and they don’t come home man? What happens then?”
A bulldog, who we will call David Davey Boy Smith, lumbers over. His presence quiets the dogs.
“We miss meat,” he says.
“But we love our owners so we need to believe this is what’s best for us.”
David Davey Boy Smith drops a bone into the centre of the room. The dogs jump onto the illicit marrow. Their blood lust palpable.
Tofu, a small terrier of some kind, chases after me as I leave the sad scene.
He encourages me into a nearby lane with a series of irritating yips.
“I actually love being vegan!” he tells me.
“I have more energy than I’ve ever had! I started riding a scooter. I know how to play ultimate frisbee now!”
He’s joined by Lulu, a sausage dog.
“I’d prefer it if you didn’t call me a sausage dog,” she says. “I’m a dachshund. I find the appropriation of my breed by the meat industry highly offensive.”
Lulu explains that she too is loving her new vegetarian lifestyle.
“I’ve been extremely worried about climate change given I really enjoy shitting on the beach. This feels like I’m doing my part. Humans can be very stupid, so I am pleased our owners are catching onto the need to live sustainably.”
Suddenly, there is intense growling from the end of the darkened alleyway.
“Did you just call my owner stupid?” comes a menacing voice.
I am told to run, as a chihuahua cross who I am told later is called “Angry Phil” begins to race toward us.
I barely escape, and I still have more questions than answers.
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The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.