Is Feeding ‘People' Food to Pets Ethical?

In fact, our ancestors used every component of slaughtered animals, and harvested all of the food they possibly could. In some cultures, these practices were viewed as a sign of respect for the sacrifice of the animal’s life — to make use of everything it had given up to ensure our survival at the expense of its own. It seems irresponsible to “waste” these byproducts just because some ingredient name sounds unpalatable to someone. And if less of each slaughtered animal is used, then more production animals will need to suffer to make up the difference. How many more chickens do we really want living lives in battery cages just to see “real" chicken at the top of the list of ingredients in our pet's food?

I also believe that those suggesting that we not include nutrient-containing byproduct ingredients in pet foods accept the responsibility of proposing sensible, sustainable alternative uses of these sources of nutrients, which I have not seen proposed. Are there other animals they believe it is OK to feed them to? Do they propose that they be discarded into already-clogged waste streams?

Feed a Puppy or Feed a Child?

I also worry about marketing people food for pets because it sounds like we could be promoting feeding human food to pets instead of to humans. If humans had all the food they needed, this might not be a concern, but they don’t. According to, one in six Americans don’t have enough to eat. Given this, what ethical or moral apology can be offered for diverting food that could be used to nourish humans to pets? While I fully recognize that pets competing with humans for food is not currently a significant cause of hunger in America — Americans waste some 40% of the food we produce, while nearly 50 million of our fellow citizens go hungry each night — I would like to see pet owners extend our empathy beyond our animals to embrace people as well.

Given the evidence that the vast majority of pets are living long, happy lives consuming pet foods that are not touted as “human-grade,” what moral justification do we have for suggesting that pets compete with people for food? And why should we feel compelled to pay a premium price for this “right” when we have so many other ways to safeguard the health and wellness of our beloved pets? During this holiday season, when many of us donate money or food to various hunger drives, let us reflect on what this imaginary concern about what our pets eat might be saying about us. This year I am choosing to ignore the emotional marketing, feed a more economical food, and give the difference to my local food bank; I invite you to join me.

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