Many people would probably consider it odd that we are vegetarians while feeding our dog a raw diet that solely consists of animal material. Although we have our reasons to do so, from time to time, we also think it’s a bit of a contradicting choice.
It would probably make more sense for us to not own a dog. Mojo was however already in our lives before we switched to a vegetarian diet. And to be totally honest, Marijke would not have been able to live without a dog in her life. We do not see a future without a four legged family member.
But let us start off by explaining why we thought about vegetarianism in the first place, and why we eventually stopped consuming meat.
If, instead of reading, you would rather sit back and listen, we have also filmed a youtube video in which Marijke explains why we chose to switch to a vegetarian lifestyle. You can check it out here:
Why we thought about becoming vegetarian
Growing up, we were both taught that eating meat was good. The more the better! Accompanied, of course, by the classic view of men feeling especially “manly” and tough when eating meat. And large amounts of it. Just take your families BBQ parties as an example!
Meat had always been a mandatory part of a meal for both of us. If a dinner would not contain meat, it wasn’t considered a real dinner. That was just a no go.
So how did we ever get the idea of becoming vegetarian? Or just consuming less meat? I guess it all had to do with growing up and broadening our minds.
The first step was moving out of our parents’ homes and into dorm rooms and adjust to living independently. Having to think about what to eat each day, and what to buy in the grocery store, made us more aware of what we were actually consuming each day.
Because we both enjoy cooking, eating less meat was a natural transition. We loved trying out new recipes, testing new ideas, seeing what we liked and disliked, and learning which ingredients are great to combine. We quickly learned that meat is certainly not a necessary part of a meal, and that certain meals are even better without it.
Our love for cooking combined with being in charge of our daily meals heavily reduced our meat consumption, but it did not stop here.
We both chose a study in the life sciences. As a result, we both gained a lot of knowledge about the environment, the welfare of animals (both wild and domestic), the role that we as humans play here on Earth, and our ecological footprint we leave behind.
Climate and sustainability
We think it is safe to say that by now everyone agrees that the human society has a profound effect here on the Earth. One can think of the emission of greenhouse gases, agricultural practices, mining of resources, pollution of natural systems, or even the nuclear bombs used in the second world war.
Well, eating meat is also one of the ways through which we heavily affect system Earth. , Especially in our current extremely high population density, combined with the high quantity of meat consumed.
First of all, meat is a highly inefficient type of food. Most people will probably immediately respond to this argument with the fact that animals have been eating meat for centuries. But one has to consider the difference in magnitude.
Western (developed) countries nearly consume double the amount of meat that developing countries eat. Here in the Netherlands, the average daily meat consumption per capita exceeds 200 grams, more than double the recommended amount.
A staggering 18% of the total greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere originates in the livestock industry.
Additionally, livestock demands an enormous amount of land. This means that not only do we need land for the livestock itself to live on, we also need agricultural land to produce the food for the livestock, before we in-turn can eat them.
The global food production takes up more than one-third of the Earth’s available land surface, and is responsible for more than 30% of the total greenhouse gases emitted by humans. This makes food production one of the largest contributors to human induced climate change.
If you’d like some background information on climate change, we talk about it here.
The global food production thus plays an important role in the ecological footprint that we as humans leave on the Earth.
A change in diet can result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and land use of up to 60%. For us, this alone is already reason enough to consider a change in our diet. But there is much more to consider. You can think of aspects such as land degradation, destruction of forests and other habitats, pollution, and etcetera.
The meat industry and animal welfare
Another major reason for us to stop eating meat has to do with animal welfare. Some people might not consider this to be a legitimate reason and would just label us as crazy animal lovers that do not want any living creature to die. Though for some people that’s definitely the sole reason for excluding meat and dairy from their diet, for us, there’s more to it than this. So please just hear us out before you judge.
We could write numerous blog posts about this subject, but we’ll give here a summary of the things we learnt at university and from personal research about farm practices.
In short, just like any other businessman, a farmer wants to increase production, be it milk or meat, in the cheapest way possible. A higher production of course equals more money. In this case however, we are talking about living products, animals.
As a consequence, the quality of the food the animals get is very poor, their hygiene is neglected, and their living space is as small as possible.
Husbandry raised animals, often referred to as farm animals or livestock, are selectively bred for desirable traits (read fastest increase in weight and procreation). Wild boars for example have an average litter size of 4-6 piglets, whereas husbandry raised sows give birth to a litter of 12.
There are many such changes that are caused by selective breeding, all of which have negative consequences for animal welfare. In the example about pigs, the last born piglets often do not even survive.
Aside from a combination of poor food, hygiene, and space, there is a lack of enrichment in the lives of farm animals. Since these animals often live in small areas without flooring to forage in or objects to play or otherwise interact with, they suffer from boredom and stress.
This regularly results in antagonistic behaviour towards other animals, such as feather pecking amongst chickens or tail biting amongst pigs. Instead of dealing with the cause, pigs are often docked so there’s no tail to bite in, and the beaks of chickens are cut off so they can’t peck each other.
Although being animal lovers is not our primary reason for living a vegetarian lifestyle, it’s definitely in our minds. We do still eat organic eggs and dairy occasionally, but we limit this consumption to a minimum, and we will probably transition these out of our diets over time as well.
Besides all of this, what about the simple fact of being able to kill an animal yourself. Over the years, we’ve asked people the following question: Would you be able to kill a pig, a cow, or a lamb yourself? The general response is ‘No, but…’
We have become so accustomed to going to the grocery store and picking up our meat in a nicely clean sealed container. Over time, we have drifted so far off of the core and have forgotten how the meat is actually sourced.
Health benefits for us
Over the past years, we gradually transitioned to a more sustainable and completely vegetarian lifestyle. Since we stopped eating meat, we saw that our consumption of fruit and vegetables increased considerably without really noticing it.
Though health benefits were not one of the reasons for us to become vegetarians, they are so clear to us now that they might form a good reason for other people to consider vegetarianism. The health benefits of eating more vegetables have already often been demonstrated. Additionally, meat can contain high amounts of saturated fats, whereas one of their vegetarian replacements – nuts – mainly contain unsaturated fats, which is one of the building blocks to a healthy diet.
Mojo’s diet choice
Now although we don’t consume meat ourselves, don’t buy leather products, and limit our intake of organic eggs and dairy, Mojo is fed a prey model raw diet. This means that she exclusively consumes meat, bone, and organ (with the exception of occasional supplements such as golden paste).
This might sound quite conflicting and those of you that actively live a more sustainable life could actually get frustrated reading this, but there is a good reason why Mojo is fed a meat based diet.
Dogs are facultative carnivores, meaning they are able to adapt to a diet including plant material if necessary for survival, but they thrive on a meat based diet. Their entire bodies are adapted to catching and consuming prey animals.
As a biologist specialized in animal adaptation I’m not only aware of the welfare of husbandry raised animals like we spoke about before, but I actually know most about our carnivorous pets.
We’ve fed Mojo a species appropriate raw diet from day one. The breeder weaned her onto a whole prey diet, meaning that at four weeks of age she nibbled on rabbits and fish heads already.
In order for Mojo to live a healthy life, she needs to eat meat, but we do not. For us, as her owners being responsible for our pet, it is more important that she gets to live a healthy live, than that we limit meat consumption.
We are not opposed to the idea of animals eating other animals. It is of course the most natural thing in the history of the Earth. It’s how the food chain works. We are more opposed to the current methods and consequences of how humanity approaches meat consumption, and how far we as consumers are actually removed from the origin of the meat we buy and eat.
We do carefully select the products we buy and Mojo is mainly fed wild shot or organic meats. Sometimes we source some free products from people that clear out their freezer or we get fish scraps from the local market. If you would like to learn more about this prey model raw diet for dogs, we explain it here, and we answer some common questions here. If you want to know we prepare her meals, click here.
The only way we could stop buying meat entirely, would be if we didn’t own a dog. And to be totally honest, that’s probably never going to happen. For the past five years, everything Marijke has done has revolved around dogs and we don’t think there will come a day without dogs in our life.
If one thinks it’s cruel to feed meat to a dog, we would personally suggest acquiring herbivores as pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs or lovely cockatiels, as opposed to feeding dogs a diet that includes (large amounts of) plant material. Every species is different, and each individual deserves a species appropriate diet.
If you’d like to see what a day in food looks like for us compared to Mojo, we filmed a ‘What we eat in a day’ video that you can watch here:
Although we are vegetarians, we often eat vegan meals, and hope to incorporate more vegan meals into our lifestyle. With our website we hope to inspire and inform people and help them be more mindful of the consequences their daily decisions have not only on their own health, but also on that of others and on the world.