/' http-equiv='refresh'/> Vegan Outreach Lincoln and East Midlands: January 2012


Vegan Cats

After our last blog post on vegan dogs we got a few questions regarding feeding cats a vegan diet. We apologise for taking a while but we've been busy both doing outreach and planning for some pretty exciting outreach opportunities that we've got coming up (more soon)!

Firstly (and most obviously) a disclaimer, neither of us are vets. Ruth has studied animal nutrition at degree level but no one is professing to be an expert in feeding cats a vegan diet. We have done a great deal of research into this topic and believe we have all the information that we would need should we rescue cats. As per usual if you have any questions or comments you can email us, leave a message under this post or write on our facebook page/group.

Similarly to the dog issue, when we as vegans oppose speciesism it is less than ideal to feed our companion animals other animals over the course of a lifetime. Veganism is unnatural for cats they say, well so is feeding them (for just two examples) environmentally-destructive cows or fish from the overly-exploited seas, animals they could never hope to catch via their own means. On which topic please don't allow cats to kill native wildlife, they are a human-introduced predator and as such occupy a potentially devastating place in ecosystems, especially given their vast numbers.

Neither belongs in a "petfood" can.

Now onto diet, cats are often more finicky than dogs, and their nutritional requirements are more complicated however this shouldn't put you off transitioning a cat that lives with you to a vegan diet. Unlike dogs where switching food is a generally a relatively easy switch (being that most will eat anything!) changing a cat's diet is something that will likely simply take a bit more time and patience.

I would suggest start with the current food (this is for wet food) and add a small percentage of the new food and see how that goes (hopefully the cat wont notice the difference). Next day add slightly more and keep continuing until you're at 100% vegan food. This all assumes that you have no issues with the cat disliking the food. Should you get to a point (lets say for this example 50% of each) where the cat won't eat the food then there are a few good tips that I've been told. One is heating the wet food up very slightly (obviously please be careful!) this enhances the smell and can make the food seem more appealing.

Nutritionally there are a few things to look out for. Firstly cats need a considerable amount of dietary vitamin A as they cannot make their own (biosnythesise). It is important to ensure they have sufficient as without it they can get health issues including hearing,skin and intestinal issues.  Another important nutrient for cats is taurine, again a diet lacking this can cause significant health issues. Both these and all essential nutrients  can be found in vegan cat food and many cats have thrived on these. We have linked to both ready made wet cat food, kibble and Vegcat (a nutritional supplement to put in homemade food) at the bottom.

One of the most common health concerns with vegan cats is urinary tract infections. Because of anatomical differences, the risk of urinary tract problems is much lower in females than in males. Both genders can develop crystals in their bladders with females this may cause discomfort but the crystals do not cause blockage. This means that that urinary tract infections are much less severe in females than in males and are much easier to cure. In male cats however a blockage can occur and can be severe.

Females, as mentioned above, can usually be given a 100% vegan diet with no problem. And so can many males. However, we really need to stress that if you want to make your males completely vegan, you need to be very dedicated and vigilant when it comes to maintaining their urinary tract health. What does this practically mean? Well basically you should make sure you get your cats ph checked every 6 months (more so when you initially introduce them to a vegan diet). You can buy ph strips for cats online to do at home, they're easy to use and give you a quick indication as to whether your cats ph is fine (or not). Feline ph should be between 6.4 and 6.5, any higher or lower then make a vets appointment!

Next, NEVER feed a male (or female really but especially a male) a strictly kibble diet. Most vegan male cats will do best on NO kibble whatsoever. Cats usually get most of their fluid from their food, which is important for ph and flushes the urinary tract stopping minor infections. They will drink water but not enough to make up from not having water in their food. If they will only eat kibble then consider soaking it in water for a few minutes prior to soaking.

Also add enzymes pH to every meal, you can easily get hold of them and they're a good idea regardless of whether the cat that lives with you has urinary tract issues as they aid digestion and help with metabolism. Get hold of enzymes with vitamin c and cranberry extract as this help acidify the urine and soothe the urinary tract.

So experimentation is key. With so many permutations available you should be able through sensible, gradual analysis to find the ethically optimum diet for your cat. If you have tried everything you can and still can't get your cat to accept a fully vegan diet then it is better to have them on a percentage of vegan food like a 75% vegan wet food mix than a fully meat based diet. Try and get to as high a percentage of vegan food to animal-derived food to at least feel you are best reducing the suffering this one animal, you are responsible for is causing.

Finally, the other most important thing is to spay and neuter! We owe a great duty of care to the overflow of domesticated animals we have brought into being and should always vehemently oppose the wanton selfishness of breeding new ones into existence.

Ph Supplement
Vegkit for kittens and lactating females
Vegcat for homemade food
Benevo wet cat food
Benevo Kibble
Ami Cat- comes in different weights


Vegan Dogs

We (Ruth and Marcus) live with two rescue dogs, Lilly and Molly, a mother and daughter pair, they're fantastic and we absolutely adore them. They have more energy than we have,in fact we wouldn't be surprised to find that Lilly (the mother) has more energy than any dog in the world. They first came to live with us as the animal sanctuary at which I (Ruth) volunteered (will go back soon) found out that they were about to be put down having been in a private kennel for eight weeks. They were dumped there by their previous owners who not only had obviously abused them (Molly is scared of strangers, especially men until she knows them) but then deserted them in a flooded house! The neighbours called the RSPCA who contacted the owners who then took them to these kennels and abandoned them.

When they arrived they were dirty, had very matted hair (they have long coats that need brushing and trimming) and Lilly had a corneal ulcer on her left eye which was long overdue treatment lest the entire eye be removed. Extra medical costs for a pair of black (unpopular fur colour in rehoming) dogs unlikey to be rehomed aren't taken lightly.

The animal sanctuary didn't really have room for them as the woman who runs it does it all on her own, has over 23 Dogs, 20 + Horses, Geese, Rabbits, Cats etc. So we agreed to foster them. I (Ruth) have rescued/fostered/snuck into my bathroom non human animals since I can remember (so that's A LOT of animals) and I've loved and cared for them all but have found other homes for all but one (who lives with my parents in HK).

It is probably pertinent at this point to mention that 1) Marcus is allergic to excessive dog fur 2) Lilly and Molly have two of the worst coats for shedding I've ever seen being Belgium Shepherd Collie crosses with big undercoats.  Anyway despite this issue, we fell in love with them within seconds, despite all they had been through they very quickly came to trust us, they never left our sides, Molly now hides behind Marcus whenever she's nervous (an impressive achievement for a dog who wouldn't come our from under the table if he was in the room for the first week). 

Lilly at the Beach

Molly at the Beach
Before we agreed to even foster them though we had a conversation about what they would eat. We knew that as vegans we couldn't pay for one set of animals (those made into food) to be used and abused so another (the girls) could eat. I'm very fortunate in that my degree included units on animal nutrition as well as access to professors to discuss dog nutritional needs with. We both did a lot of research including reading this free ebook on vegan dogs. We saw no reason that they shouldn't be healthy and happy on a vegan diet so that's exactly what they've been fed for the last 22 months.

We tried them on v-dog flakes initially which they didn't like then tried v-dog nuggets which they love. They also get some extra cooked food now and again which could be anything from potatoes, kidney beans and olive oil to whatever we had the night before (no onions, dogs are allergic).  They also adore carrots, seriously, we can't peel one or say the word without them being at our heels! Not only that but they took to nicking cabbage out the pots where we were growing them, cute initially but much more destructive than cabbage fly!

It's not just our opinion that they're healthy, according to the vet at their last check up about 6 weeks ago she said "They're in fantastic shape, the right weight and are very healthy. Keep doing what you're doing!". Now that's high praise from someone who peddles Iams. The other dogs vets are seeing are increasingly overweight (sometimes obese!) and listless apparently.

We knew that it was vital to us that the dogs were vegan, we couldn't justify the speciesism of feeding them other animals so we were willing to try everything and I think that is very important. Try lots of different foods, in the UK alone there's V-dog flakes,V-dog nuggets, Ami dog (hypoallergenic), Benevo,Yarah and vegedog which is a supplement powder to put on cooked food if you choose to go that way. What we're trying to say is there's so many options to try that with a bit of patience you will find the one that suits your companion/s.

We know there are those reading this who will think we're very odd and that dogs aren't vegan in the wild so shouldn't be fed vegan. You're right, dogs are natural omnivores (not carnivore as many believe) and scavengers. However post-domestication they eat whatever humans choose to give to them and the fact is that every essential nutrients required in a dog's diet can be met without any animal product whatsoever.

Every single essential amino acid, fatty acid, carbohydrate,vitamin, and mineral can be provided properly and so it can be absorbed. Therefore feeding dogs a traditional dog food with other animals and/or animal derived ingredients is certainly causing unnecessary suffering.

Finally it is vital that the dogs you rescue are spayed/neutered, there are already 120,000 dogs a year  abandoned  in the UK and 7551 are put down for no reason other than a lack of a home. With so many unwanted animals already, bringing more into existence increases competition for the few homes there are.

Helpful links below and remember email us/leave comments on the facebook...

Lembas - where we get our dog food,a wholefood seller in Sheffield
Veggie Pets - Labels which foods are vegan
Cerea dog chews at veggie pets although we find them everywhere,dogs adore them


Vegan Health and Fitness

If you're already vegan or going vegan and want some very good, healthy recipes I would seriously suggest getting hold of "Thrive Foods". It's the third in the series of thrive books written by a vegan ironman triathlete and creator of the vegan supplement range Vega, Brendan Brazier. The first two books, "Thrive Diet" and "Thrive Fitness" are good but a little overwhelming for someone who isn't a professional athlete and wants easy meals. Although the pizza from the first thrive book is amazing, not pizza in the traditional sense but so delicious (in fact we've just had if for lunch!).

As well as being vegan the recipes avoid common allergens, processed corn,wheat,gluten and soy. It's not just a cook book but explains what foods are best for top health, it's a really interesting read even if you don't stick to it totally (we certainly don't).

Brendan recommends certain harder to find foods such as stevia (sugar substitute can be bought on ebay) and maca powder for endurance. If you decide to add these to your diet then we recently found a vegan company (always good to support them first!) called Organic Burst that does maca powder,wheat grass and some other food supplements. Do you need to have all these extra supplements? No, you can live very healthily without them but for those with chronic illness, who are very active, catch every virus etc then a little boost can certainly help.
 Organic Burst (honestly we're not getting paid for this!) are nominated under best new product for the Natural Lifestyle Awards 2011, they're a small vegan company so need help getting known, taking two minutes out your day to vote for them would be great. http://www.targetnaturalmedia.com/nl_awards_2011.php

 Another book we got over Christmas was Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness by the very well known (and loved) vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke. It's a great book to have around for when your beloved (but highly irritating) uncle visits and tells you that all vegans are puny weaklings. Robert most certainly isn't puny and calling him weak would be a mistake. The book sets out how he eats, trains and lives as a vegan. It has sections for serious athletes such as how to get sponsored and some for us mere mortals such as how to get motivated in the first place! An all around enjoyable and inspirational book.

  If you are getting into weight lifting or bodybuilding the best vegan protein powders to get are hemp, pea or brown rice, either separately or if you combine them they're a great compliment to each other. Obviously you can get plenty of protein from your food generally but straight after a hard workout having a big meal can prove taxing for the digestive system.

New Year's Resolutions

Hello, we hope everyone had a great holiday period and 2012 has started well...

 The start of a new year brings with it the desire to change things, make this year better than the last and do things we had put off doing last year. However so many people start with grand, admirable but perhaps a tad unrealistic resolutions,such as "I won't eat anything that's not healthy until i'm x(usually 3 stone lighter than they are) weight" or I'll exercise every day this year" or to bring it back to veganism "I'll convince all my friends to go vegan".

  Unrealistic resolutions tend to lead to failure and make you feel worse than when you started. Lets be realistic here, if your diet consists of mainly junk food and you never cook because you hate it then making a new years resolution that says you'll eat perfectly,never touch crisps again and cook three meals a days is not realistic. It doesn't take into consideration that a)you may not know how to cook b) you're human and not suddenly perfect c) how you are going to achieve this? d) why do you want to do this? You would be better making 12 small step resolutions (one for each month) that work towards your overall achievement. For this example you could start by writing down what you normally eat for a few days, look at what you would like to alter.  Month one's resolution could be to cut down the number of packets of crisps you eat from seven a week to one. That doesn't have to be overnight either, week one you could go from seven to five, week two from five to three, week three from three to two and week four from 2 to 1.  Having an idea of what you'll eat instead or when you might have a craving is a good precaution to take.

If you're trying to lose weight then replace them with some fruit or raw veg (carrot sticks, broccoli, celery the list goes on). If you're just doing it for health then how about some nuts (preferably without oil and salt on). A good book with healthy recipes and minimal fat (although remember folks fat is not the enemy and you need some to be healthy) is Forks over Knives.

  If you don't usually cook but want to then there are some great beginners vegan cookbooks out there, we've listed some links to them at the bottom of this page. 

If you're an omnivore who has decided to go vegan this year, great! We know people who have made the change in different ways. You can go cold tofurky and go from omnivore to vegan overnight but I would suggest having read  a little around the nutritional aspects as you don't want to end up six months down the line saying "It was too hard,I couldn't eat anything,I didn't feel well" as this wont do you, the animals or those you're contact with any good. Go to the vegan society's website there they have good well researched nutritional information that shows how you needn't be a junk food vegan. You are a walking billboard for veganism, if you are fit and healthy people will be much more interested in the message you are giving as they can see that you can be healthy and vegan.

 The alternative and the way we progressed to veganism is to do it gradually. Most people take this to mean go vegetarian then vegan. As we've said in many blog posts we do not think that there is any moral/environmental improvement to being a vegetarian as opposed to an omnivore. Dairy cows are directly linked to the veal industry and it is said that there is often more suffering in a glass of milk than in a pound of steak. What we would do is when you finish the milk in the fridge is go out and buy a selection of alternative milks, a few brands of soya milk (they all taste different), almond milk, hemp milk, oat milk etc and try them all and decide on which one you like. Then when you next need to get more mince then replace it with vegan mince, which can be found in the freezer section of most supermarkets.  Continue until you're replaced all animal products. This way you not only make the change gradual and less scary but also avoid wastage.  

Finally with making resolutions that involve you changing others,others will only change if THEY want to. You can give people all the knowledge and logical arguments they need to make the change but unless they're ready they won't. Pushing people often makes them resentful. I would suggest doing things like getting them copies of your favourite vegan cookbook, bringing vegan food when you visit them, cook a vegan meal together, watch/give them a copy of Forks over Knives. Offer to let them borrow them any animal rights books you have (Gary Francione's books are good). Most importantly be there to openly,kindly and honestly answer any and all questions they have no matter how silly/easy they may seem.

Remember we're here to help, you can leave a comment under here, go onto our facebook groups or email us at veganoutreacheastmidlands@gmail.com

Easy vegan cooking- "Students Go Vegan"
Easy vegan cooking - "30 Minute Vegan"
Dummies Guide to Veganism
Vegan on The Cheap
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