MOM, CAN YOU BUY SOME CAT FOOD, SO I CAN FEED THE CATS?
Funny how a simple question about feeding local feral/stray cats from my child got me to think about: pet feeding options, asking other vegans about ethical options, diving into the pet store dumpster to rescue pet food, researching dumpster diving laws and tips...
When my son (age 12 and vegan) saw feral cats, around several dumpsters, next to businesses, near our home, in addition to the stray cat living in our yard, he asked me to buy cat food to feed them/him. He wanted me to buy regular meat based (not vegan) cat food because cats are considered to be obligate carnivores. I really wanted to provide some cat food for my son to feed the cats, but I did not want to support businesses that kill animals and/or pollute our environment. So, I explained to him that I would not be buying meat cat food, because, for me it is not ethical to support the killing of the few species of animals to feed other animals, especially for cats that did not seem to be starving. I asked him: Why would I imprison/cage, abuse, torture and murder hundreds of other animals to feed cats? Just because we do not personally see or participate directly in the suffering of other animals does not magically mean it does not exist? I told him that I would consider buying vegan cat food, since the cats are probably finding or being fed meat by other people and may also be hunting for birds, snakes and small mammals.
Vegan Cat Food Options:
I checked on several vegan cat food options and none of these options worked and/or felt comfortable for me:
- Buy Vegan Cat Food from Local Stores - I could not find vegan cat food in any local store. I was only able to find vegan cat food online, which, unless I buy huge quantities would require additional shipping, packaging, which is an additional footprint for the environment.
- Order Vegan Cat Food Online - High Probability they are filled with GMO Ingredients. Based on the ingredients, vegan cat food is most likely filled with GMO ingredients, thus I would be supporting GMO (transgenic organisms, not to be confused, as they often are, with hybridized organisms). I emailed http://VeganCats.com with questions to find out if they sell vegan foods that are GMO-free. More than one month later still no reply!!!
- Buy Imported GMO-fee Vegan Cat Food - I was only able to identify brands that are made outside of the U.S.. Therefore, they are imported (which increases the eco-footprint) from overseas, and they are also packaged in plastic.*
- Cook Myself - Use local ingredients and add nutritional supplements. It seems like a decent option, but at the same time it is a new learning curve and I currently could not fit it into my already busy schedule.
*After I watched the documentary Plastic Planet, I became very aware of plastic pollution, so I purchase as few products as I can that packaged in plastic. When I shop for produce I use compostable BioBags and/or reuse plastic produce bags (I would use my organic or hemp bags, but they add weight) for fresh produce and buy from the bulk section instead of pre-packaged foods. I do not consider food packaged in plastic to be truly vegan due to the FACT that plastic production and use can (often does) lead to harming and killing animals (yes, that includes us humans).
My son continued to ask me for cat food. I also recently watched a documentary called Dive and learned how much food is thrown away in the USA, so I decided to find out myself by checking out my local pet store dumpster and see if I could get any pet food. I was surprised on my first attempt that I was able to get a full box of various kinds of pet food! Currently, I consider pet food out of the dumpsters to have the least eco-footprint, yet I am also concerned about any ethical objections, so I asked on several Vegan Facebook groups, but nobody presented any objections to the dumpster option. Please comment below this article about your thoughts on the most ethical and eco-friendly option(s).
Benefits to Dumpster Diving for Pet Food:
♦ ZERO Eco-Footprint - Cat food out the dumpsters has the least eco-footprint, actually zero, since it is basically on the way to the landfill. Rescuing and recycling (feeding the cats and recycling the packaging) instead of ignoring it being sent to the landfill to pollute our earth and injure and toxify any number of animals and species it is not just zero footprint, but also beneficial for the environment.
♦ Recycle the Packaging - Simply feed the cats and recycle the packaging (plastic bag or metal can), instead of it all ending up in landfill.
♦ SAFE $$$ - You can save at least $1,000 a year per cat.
♦ Donate Saved $$$ - Instead of financially supporting the pet/meat food industry, you can donate the money you $ave to a local or national organization that works to prevent the unnecessary euthanasia of healthy feral and free-roaming cats. Many cities offer a TNR (trap, neuter and return) program to the community. Here is the TNR program offered in my city (Las Vegas) www.c5-tnr.org
♦ Reduced threat to wildlife - Under the assumption that well fed cats tend to kill less of wildlife.
"Domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes" http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/science/that-cuddly-kitty-of-yours-is-a-killer.html?_r=0
I made a deal with my son that I would "dive" into the dumpster and he would feed the cats, clean packaging and recycle it!
If you think you may not be able to get enough food from the pet store dumpsters, then you may be surprised to know that 40 percent of the food in the United States ends up rotting in landfills! Pet store dumpsters usually contain various types of pet foods - most are dumped (trashed) simply because the packaging has cosmetic damage!!! Others are dumped because of customer returns (Poe may not have liked the taste) and the package expiration date (see section below on food safety). My experience is that there is almost no diving competition for the pet food. Every time I look, I get some decent quantities of pet food. In general most dumpsters in the USA are full of all kinds of food, check your local pet stores, Trader Joes, Whole Foods dumpsters. Here is a website to check what dumpsters are accessible in your area. Grocery stores and restaurant dumpsters in low income areas are usually cleared up by homeless, low income people and freegans, but the pet food dumpsters seem to be overlooked. Trader Joe's throws away large amount of eggs on a regular basis, that does not seem to be eaten by dumpster divers, so if you do not mind cooking eggs for your cat (based on my quick search cats eat bird eggs in the wild), this can an additional option. See my article on Trader Joe's trash.
Basic Safety Rules for Dumpster Diving for Pet Food:
1. Legal Check - in your location if Dumpster Diving is legal. Dumpster diving is legal in the United States, except where prohibited by local regulation. Link to Freegan legal page http://freegan.info/what-is-a-freegan/freegan-practices/urban-foraging/diving-and-the-law
2. Learn Food Safety.
Check if thrown away pet food has been recalled www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/safetyhealth/recallswithdrawals
Learn how to tell if a food is not safe or edible.
The expiration date is not 100% accurate, so it may in fact still be perfectly edible - always check first.
Good news! Cats are highly resistant to the botulism. I could only find one case: "This is apparently the first report of natural botulism in cats." www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC525276
3. It is not for everybody. You should be:
- Fit. Usually pet food is mixed with other trash (bags, boxes..) so it is not always within hand reach distance. To be efficient you will need to jump inside the Dumpster to remove (rescue) pet food. Bonus, you might save some live animal! Pet stores sometimes throw away live animals into their duster! Petco Throws LIVE Baby Iguana in Dumspter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoGSZamX8w0! Make sure if you jump inside Dumpster you will be able to get out. I am somewhat weak and a few lbs more than I need, so it is also a good workout for me. The walls of the dumpsters can be tall, so you have to be somewhat fit to be able to jump in (and out) of the dumpster.
- Free from Prejudice - The prejudice may come from misconceptions, fallacies, unfounded fears, dogma... At first I was apprehensive, but after watching the DIVE documentary and interviewing a few local divers I rethought much of my prejudice and eliminated several of my fears. I am normally somewhat socially shy, but because I so strongly believe that diving is beneficial to our home planet environment it helps me overcome my fears.
4. Wear Gloves with good grip (I use garden gloves), pants and thick sole shoes to avoid cut yourself by stepping on broken glass or something sharp.
5. Bring a Bag or Box with to pack your 'haul'. Be prepared to carry heavy bag/box, sometimes it can be a lot of food to carry!
6. Know the Difference - A dumpster is NOT a compactor! NEVER, EVER, EVER... try to get inside a compactor!
Learn more about dumpster diving http://www.wikihow.com/Dumpster-Dive
Myths / Controversy
♦ Pet Foods Made From Meat Byproducts. Many vegans think that it is OK to feed cats store bought, meat based, pet food, since it is made primarily from the byproducts of human meat consumption. Yes, this is partially correct, BUT these 'byproducts' (intestinal organs like liver, heart..) are actually profitable products not waste products, since they would NOT be going to a landfill if carnivorous pets would not eat these byproducts. If it were the case that byproducts from human meat consumption would be wasted (dumped in the landfill), then it would be better to feed these byproducts to the carnivorous pets. But meat byproducts are mostly used in other industries and exported to other countries for... human consumption. http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/147867/ldpm20901.pdf
♦ I heard from vegans and non-vegans that "cats are carnivores, so we should feed them meat." I agree that cats are carnivores, but I do not agree that we (humans) are ethically required to feed these animals by killing other animals. I think that there can be ways to feed cats with roadkill and accidental deaths. Obligate (eating animals is required for survival) carnivores in nature are able to catch and kill weaker, older or sicker animals, and the healthier, stronger animals usually have a chance to escape. I think it is totally unfair that other (prey) animals have no chance to escape from their predators.
What are you thoughts?