Plant-based diets have grown exponentially in popularity. It's only January, but 2019 is already being dubbed "the year of the vegan", with tens of thousands of people signing up for Veganuary - an annual event which encourages people to adopt a vegan diet for 30 days. After which, it is likely that many will continue to follow the lifestyle permanently.
The benefits of veganism and vegetarianism are becoming increasingly well-known, with science proving that it is a better choice for the environment and, potentially, our health - although the latter has been subject to intense debate.
This is what happened when a dog chose between a vegetarian and a meat-based meal:
And regardless of what side of the fence you sit on when it comes to the vegan-vegetarian debate, there is no doubt that it is a lifestyle choice which isn't suitable for everyone. In this instance, "choice" is very much the operative word, especially when it comes to forcing your views on other people - more so if they don't (and never will) have the ability to consent.
People adopt plant-based diets of a myriad of reasons, and unless they are doing it purely for their health, face a moral dilemma when it comes to feeding their omnivorous dogs and carnivorous cats, both of which require meat as part of a healthy diet.
But, to the dismay of vets around the world, many vegans and vegetarians are choosing to thrust their lifestyle choice upon their companion animals - a decision which is encouraged by PETA itself, who cites the example of the world's longest living dog, Bramble, who was a vegetarian, as proof that the diet doesn't do any harm to pets.
The organization says that, with the addition of the right supplements (a telling factor that something is going to be missing from their diets), naturally omnivorous and carnivorous animals can be perfectly healthy on a vegan diet:
"The nutritional needs of dogs and cats are easily met with a balanced vegan diet and certain supplements. James Peden, author of Vegetarian Cats & Dogs, developed Vegepet™ supplements to add to vegetarian and vegan recipes. They are nutritionally balanced and also come in special formulas for kittens, puppies, and lactating cats and dogs."
According to a study published in PLOS One, pet owners are more likely to follow a plant-based diet compared to the rest of the population, which means that there's a dangerous scope for animals to be unknowingly abused as they try to do the opposite.
In cats, a vegan diet often results in a taurine deficiency, which is naturally found in animal products, and while supplements can be synthesized in dogs and humans, cats biologically can't do this and need to get taurine directly from these products.
And while, as implied above, it is possible to keep dogs healthy on a vegan diet, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center reports, it is an extremely challenging thing do to - and let's not forget the dogs themselves would most likely prefer an omnivorous one.
In a bid to understand more about how plant-based pet owners are feeding their animals, a study was conducted by Canadian researchers and published in PLOS One. It found that those who put their pets onto vegan diets were vegan and not vegetarian.
Of the vegan and vegetarian pet owners surveyed, a mere 1.5% of people said that their animals were currently on a plant-based diet and, perhaps even more concerningly, 15% expressed an interest in putting their pets on one.
Those who expressed this interest, however, said that they had quite understandable reservations, with 74% of people expressing concern that putting an animal like a dog or a cat on an entirely plant-based diet would be bad for their health.
Others, 45%, said their pets weren't on plant-based diets because there wasn't enough information available about them.
But thankfully, 65% of those surveyed said that they'd never force a plant-based diet on a pet.
Researchers ultimately concluded that "an association exists between the diet a pet owner has chosen to follow and the diet they choose to feed their pet."
What do you think of vegan cats and dogs? Is it okay for dogs if their owner is scrupulous enough to give them the balanced vegetarian diet, or should it never be allowed? Let us know in the comments section.