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DIVE DRY WITH DR. BILL #899: VEGAN PETS?

Discussion in 'California' started by drbill, May 20, 2019.

  1. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest Scuba Legend

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Santa Catalina Island, CA
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    DIVE DRY WITH DR. BILL #899: VEGAN PETS?

    Many years ago I adopted a vegetarian, almost vegan, diet. I chose this after losing 70 pounds in a self-developed program involving limited food intake (900 cal/day) and lots of strenuous exercise. I wanted to keep the weight from coming back (sadly after 40 years, much of it has despite my cancer!). Now my culinary skills with a regular diet are pretty mediocre, but I found that I was even worse at preparing good vegetarian meals despite Francis Lappé's Diet for a Small Planet so I eventually gave it up.

    I have vegetarian and vegan friends and don't question their choice of meals. If it works for them, I readily acknowledge their superior cooking skills! I actually enjoy a well-prepared vegetarian meal on occasion and miss the wonderful vega-turkey sandwiches that I used to eat at Alma's Health Food Bar here on Catalina. There are good ecological, health and animal cruelty reasons for considering these choices, but I remain an omnivore. However, those who aggressively proselytize and attempt to push their dietary choices (or religion or politics) on others are not welcome in my world.

    As a biologist of many decades, I am well aware of the dietary choices made by many of Earth's co-habitating species. For example, in the marine environment we have vegetarian species like the opaleye (Girella nigricans) and carnivores like the California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher)... not to mention the landlord (Carcharodon carcharias)! I do find it interesting that up here in the northern part of its range, the opaleye adds "meat" (in the form of small invertebrates) to its diet whereas in the warmer southern regions like Baja California it is almost entirely vegetarian.

    Although some fish species are narrow specialists, eating just a few prey or algal munchies; others are generalists or opportunists and will chow down on just about anything. Think of the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) which; in addition to turtles, marine mammals, fish and invertebrates; has also taken the occasional vehicle license plate!

    It is my belief that most cultures within the species Homo sapiens have adopted a largely omnivorous diet to sustain them. My father was of German descent and we lived in the Midwest, so Mom cooked a lot of meat and potatoes (not to mention sauerkraut). She made sure we had two veggies at each meal. Of course I couldn't tolerate canned peas (Pisum sativum), so I'd pass them under the table to one of my sisters... or excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I don't understand why snorkelers seem to think frozen peas are a good choice to feed fish in our dive park. However, I'm fine with broccoli, cauliflower and even fresh beans.

    As a curious biologist, one thing I've often wondered about is this. Go ahead, write it Dr. Bill. I sincerely wonder if any of the vegans or vegetarians who read my columns feed their dogs or cats a vegan or vegetarian diet. I understand that those of you who have bunny rabbits most likely do. If so, how do you justify letting your fine furry friend eat what you won't? After all, the killing of fish and terrestrial critters to feed pets has significant consequences for the natural and anthropo-centric ecosystems of the world. Just asking... for a friend, of course. There is no right or wrong answer.

    Gregory Okin of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability has estimated there are about 163 million dogs and cats in our country. According to him, pet foods are much more meat-dominated on a per pound basis. He estimated that they consume 25% of America's meat-based food intake. Of course some of that comes from animal organs and parts we humans aren't fond of.

    Many pet foods do contain grain and plant products. This may be fine for dogs which Okin says are more omnivorous, but cats are true carnivores. He also states that fully vegetarian or vegan diets are not appropriate for either species. I certainly fed my cat and dog pets meat-rich diets. Since I lived in a rural area, they got plenty of exercise and never came close to being obese (unlike their owner). Today, the only "pets" I have are the fish and invertebrates in the surrounding sea. They choose their own food preferences... and I don't have to walk them, either!

    © 2019 Dr. Bill Bushing. For the entire archived set of over 800 "Dive Dry" columns, visit my website Star Thrower Educational Multimedia (S.T.E.M.) Home Page

    Image caption: Mostly vegetarian opaleye and carnivorous California sheephead; beef-based dog food and "grain free" salmon-based cat food.


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