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February 22, 2011


Wow! You guys are amazing! This is the kind of thinking and action we need to save our planet. You are paving the way to a more conscious future on this planet :)

Thank you so much for raising this issue! I am a city dweller and obviously cannot raise my own beef. I have trolled the web constantly for the last 7 months since I got my little dog, searching for any kind of pet food company that concerns itself with the living conditions of the animals it uses. I have emailed pet food companies, I have searched the PETA site. NOWHERE can I find anything that addresses this concern. Even PETA lists “cruelty-free” products SOLELY on the basis of whether there has been lab animal testing.

I have never received a response from anyone and I continue my search. I guess that cooking my own dog food is the only way. Although I have been a vegetarian for many years, I don’t expect my dog to be one. I have been using USDA certified organic as I understand that this does provide some limited guarantees about the living conditions of the animals.

I know there are many people out there who care about this. I don’t understand why none of the pet food companies have been willing to fill that gap. If anyone knows of a pet food manufacturer who does just use humanely raised animals, I would love to hear from you

Steve and Alayne,

I want to applaud you both so much for tackling these VERY difficult issues on a public forum. You are educating people, you are being honest with your supporters and you are questioning your actions and ethics as all of us should. Bravo.

I, like many people here, am conflicted. I think one poster said it best when she wrote "Sebastian would have died of old age if I had to drive him." This would definitely be me!!

Yet, I too have a dog and cats and, although I believe dogs are omnivores rather than true carnivores there is no doubt meat is the healthiest option for both species. I am a vegan and have struggled endlessly with this dilemma because I do not believe the life of a cow or chicken or pig is less than the life of a dog or cat. I would never be able to directly kill Peter to feed Paul even though my animals ARE indirectly responsible for the deaths of other animals. Sigh. So difficult.

In my research, I have found that although meat must be fed there are many vegetarian options that can be mixed in during the week so that meat consumption is minimized...particularly for dogs.

With all these thoughts churning through my mind, I only have great respect for you and Alayne because you don't hide from the hard facts that most of us try to sweep under the carpet. You have made the links transparent. Sebastian will be fed to Fuzzy. Sebastian must die for this to happen. Fuzzy will live.

This is the very basic truth and everyone who eats meat or feeds meat to their companion animals needs to understand that this means the death of another animal who is just as much in love with life as we and our animals are. They frolic in the grass, they love their mothers and they enjoy basking in the warmth of the sun's rays.

If we have cats and dogs we are complicit in the deaths of other animals and I have NEVER seen another rescue acknowledge this and take responsibility for it. Absolutely astounding. I believe there is still hope for the world yet.

But, even though we may choose to make an animal's life as humane as possible before accepting the ultimate responsibility of taking that life it is very important to remember that EVERY animal would prefer life to death and to never take the death of any animal lightly whether they are dog, cat, chicken, cow or pig.

Although our cats and dogs may need to eat meat we certainly don't and I would encourage everyone who cares about these issues to take steps towards veganism. This would help to alleviate much of the suffering of animals raised for food.

I am reminded of a fictional pig who urges us to always look outside the human remember that the world has other eyes looking outwards than just our own.

Wilbur burst into tears. "I don´t want to die," he moaned. "I want to stay alive, right here in my comfortable manure pile with all my friends. I want to breathe the beautiful air and lie in the beautiful sun."
--E.B White (Charlotte´s Web)

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the both of you and that will continue forever. I am probably commenting on this blog rather late because I had to absorb everything you've written. I do not have the answer; I only know that I cannot take an animal to slaughter or "processed" after winning it's trust even if the slaughter house had a room nicer than the Ritz. With that said...what is the answer? I don't know. I too had a small calf that I truly loved slaughtered; it's been over forty years and I cannot forget.

PS--Mine eat meat. I know they have to.

Oh boy, this is SUCH a tough one for me. I don't eat red meat (or the other white meat) and I just get sick when I think about slaughter day. And I feel bad about my dogs and cats eating meat.
But, I'm with you on this. The most important thing, I remind myself, is the the life the animal has lived and knowing it goes through the least amount of stress possible upon being slaughtered.
Oh boy, I cried when I read about Sebastian's last day, but I'm so grateful for all that he had. Kudos to you for tackling such a tough subject.

Wow. I have been a follower of your blog for a very long time, but this is the first time I have felt the need to post. I could not be more impressed with you. What a difficult choice, but I belive you have made the most compassionate choice available to you.Sebastian had a good life. I am not sure I would ever be strong enough to do that, but thank you for all you do for the animals.

do you and Alayne live in an alternate universe where there is 48 hours in each day? that is the only way I can imagine you can do everything you do! wow. I have one Pug, a hubby and two small kids and we can barely find the time to feed ourselves a balanced diet, nevermind investigating all the sources, options, etc. Good on ya and thanks for posting such a thought provoking segment.

I love you Steve and Alayne, not only for what you do but the thought you put into it. But, it doesn't matter what other people think- you know you are doing the right thing. THAT IS WHAT MATTERS.
Heather Montana and Timmy The Wonder Dog- Montana (we still miss you).

I too applaud you for your decision to take the source of your animals food supply into your own hands. As most animal lovers, I too have struggled with this dilemma. It is and ethical quandary, but I don't believe it is right to deprive our carnivorous pets of the diet nature intended. My dogs are on an all raw diet supplied by a small local company here in Oregon. Eventually, I would like to start making my own raw food with local organic, humanely raised, pastured meats. Commercial food is for the most part crap and full of fillers and potentially dangerous ingredients. If you want to take your animals health up a notch I encourage you to look into a raw diet. All the essential enzymes are not destroyed by cooking. As for the beef from your cattle make sure you include the organs and contents of the stomach. That is how wolves eat their prey and that is how they get all their nutrients. Raw meaty bones should also be included in their diets. I would recommend reading about "the raw meaty bones diet" which I believe to be the diet that most closely mimics the diet intended for dogs and cats.

As I am in the veterinary realm with my day job, I greatly appreciate the fact that you address the focus so many forget- that PROPER nutrition is important. Unfortunately, while I understand the desire of those to try to feed a vegetarian diet, I often am bothered by the fact that they forget the simple, basic fact that both dogs and cats need meat to survive. (Dogs less so than cats, and there are ways to get around it with dogs, though it is extremely difficult.)

I feel the same way you do- happy meat is better. Happy means living with appropriate food, shelter, water, interaction, space, etc. I'm sure all your rescues appreciate it as well!

Guts for "Food, Inc", the documentary film?

Great post Steve. Haven't read all the comments yet but wanted to add my own first. I live the dilemma too, live small and applaud you all the way. Including the names.

Hear hear.

Thank you for your post. This is an issue I battle with daily. We have a house full of 7 pets (3 dogs, 4 cats) - and my husband and I have our own battle going on with eating meat (we don't eat lamb, pork or veal - but occasionally eat fish, beef & chicken). I do buy commercial food - high quality, human grade - for all the cats, but a while ago started making the food for our dogs. One of our dogs (who has since passed) had a very strict diet (low fat, low protein)...I followed the recipe found in "The Whole Pet Diet" authored by the founder of HALO pet food. It's the Spot's Chicken Stew. I buy organic, free-range chicken (although I always wonder...I too read Michael Pollan's book). Along with the chicken, it is filled with tons of veggies, barley & kelp powder. The next best thing would be to follow your footsteps and raise our own chickens. Maybe someday - you guys are truly an inspiration to me. I so admire what you do, what you stand for and all you do for the animals you care for. Do what is right for you. You have posted something that I hope makes people think and be more aware what is fed to their beloved pets as well as themselves. We should all know where our food comes from. Thank you for everything you do.

I applaud you & Alayne for doing the most thoughtful and important thing in considering what you feed your animals. I also am so pleased to read your post, as even as a vegan you can do this for the love of the animals. I've been a vegetarian for a many decades and I totally understand your considerations.
It's wonderful that you have the pasture and the time to not only take care of the special pets, but your cows as well.
You two never cease to impress and amaze me with all that you do! Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.
Warm hugs to all,
ginger, Tobias & Tlingit

Hard choice, excellent solution.
You guys ROCK!
Dignity and Identity...... I'll never forget that.

Although I realize you will have some people say you are (all) wrong about your decision as to what to feed your disabled animals, I support your decision whole-heartedly.

While the animals, you use for food for your charges, have only a relatively short life, they have a good life. How do any of the other alternatives compare to the alternative you chose? At least the alternative you chose provides the "food animals" with a "high-quality" life even though it is short in time.

Consider, too, these "food animals" would have no life at all were it not for RDR. Instead, the animals needed to supply your charges with food would have a distinctly lower quality of life as animals in the regular "food animal" channels.

Thank you for all the thought and efforts you put into obtaining the information to make your decision. Thank you for sharing your decision. Thank you for being willing to spend the time obtaining food for your charges.


I get everything you've said here except one thing. Why subject yourselves to the emotional stress of slaughtering an animal you've come to know and care about? Surely you could locate someone who raises cattle in line with your philosphy and purchase the beef without having known the individual animal. Wouldn't that meet your philosophical needs and yet spare you some sorrow?
After over 60 years my mom still talks about a pig she loved on the farm she grew up on and how terribly, terribly sad she was when he was slaughtered.
I need a "middle man" with aligned views of humane and healthy animal care. Otherwise, as someone else said, I'd already be a vegetarian.

I appreciate your choices and honesty in sharing what you knew would be controversial with your readers. I have very mixed feelings about it. So glad Sebastian had a good life, so heart broken to read about his trusting last ride to slaughter. No easy solutions for our meat-eating doggies! Something has to die. It's just extra tough reading about him, tamed and named, trusting and such. Take care. We know there are hard jobs out there to be done and most of us just don't happen to be the ones who have to face doing them.

Oops I was going to post a link to Temple Grandin's site on livestock behavior, slaughterhouses, and humane options:

I think this is awesome. As much as we would like to stop killing any animal for food, that's not reality. However, just because we do slaughter animals for food doesn't mean we shouldn't treat them humanely. I love that you are raising your own stock, naming them, and personally taking them to their gentle ends. I think that's as humane and loving as anyone could hope to be. Thank you for being such an excellent example. :)

Have you heard of Temple Grandin? I recently watched a movie made of her life, and it's an amazing story. She is autistic, and her way of seeing things made her able to renovate slaughterhouses to make them as humane as possible. Unfortunately there are still too many non-humane slaughterhouses, but Grandin's work and life are amazing and inspiring to me. You should check the movie out if you and Alayne are looking for a chillax night in with the pups. :)

I THINK WHAT YOU ARE DOING FOR YOUR ANIMALS IS ABOVE & BEYOND HUMANE. IT WOULD BE GREAT IF WE ALL COULD RAISE OUR OWN ANIMALS TO EAT. MY PROBLEM WOULD BE, THEY WOULD ALL BECOME PETS, I WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO EAT THEM. THANKS STEVE & ALAYNE FOR BEING HONEST WITH US. I THINK ITS THE BEST WAY TO DO WHAT YOUR DOING. was said before...I was going to stop with that and post but I have decided to weigh in on this. While it was very hard to read that you have hand raised your cattle.......and then to be slaughtered...I must say that I continue to be in amazed and in awe of all that you 2 do to follow your passion of rescuing disabled horses, dogs and in the past, cats. Truly your deep concern for your charges, their welfare is center to all of your decisions. Thank you for sharing some of your thought process(es) in reaching the decision to raise, take to slaughter and use your well fed and humanely treated cattle for feed. I commend your decision to do what is best for them. To share this with we, the animal loving supporters of RDR shows how much integrity you both have. Like many of us, I grew up in the suburbs with grocery store food. Not the healthiest I am sure. I continue to live that way. That being said, both of my folks grew up in rural communities. They lived thru the depression and WWII(my dad in a coal mining town in the USA and my mom in Europe)...never going hungry because their parents had subsistence farms...including livestock. They had healthy diets and were able to help others with their crops...including meat while others wondered where their next meal would come from. How incredibly far most of us have gone from that era. Bless you both for all that you do, for you honesty and heartfelt blogs. You are amazing.

Wow. This post is one of your best and it was very timely: I've often wondered what you feed your army and I guess it should come as no surprise that you spend as much time and care feeding your residents as you do looking after their other needs.
I have always had ongoing issues with what to feed my 2 dogs: We've done the raw food, the 'no grain/carb', canned, bagged, but always high quality, human-grade brands.
There are so many options and it can get overwhelming, but I finally learned this: Don't beat yourself up! Provide the best food that you can afford and in the end your dog will eat what he likes and there may only be one or two types/methods of food that they can eat due to food allergies, sensitivities, weight control, etc.. We are lucky here in Edmonton to live so close to Champion Petfoods(
and now rely on their Acana food for our dogs. They are the most natural, local food that luckily our dogs love and thrive on.
You are all so lucky at RDR to be able to feed and care for each other so well.

Wow, I just happened upon your website when voting for shelters. I've now spent 2 hours just looking and reading and wow...AMAZING..
Even when I read about Sebastian my heart ached for a moment until you said you knew he had a wonderful life. That is what matters. I love ya'll! I'm so thankful for everything you all do and I learned alot just today by reading. I'm a new fan!

Thank you for sharing this. Your solution seems very well thought out and indeed as humane as possible. I commend and admire your efforts and your dedication. It's going to be both difficult and rewarding. I wish you well in this new adventure.

On a lighter note, I heard you shouldn't feed dogs potatoes because it gives them gas. But I'm sure if this were the case you'd become aware of it quickly, LOL.

I'm sorry, but that was just one of the most pitiful stories you've ever written! I was crying by the end of it. On one level, I'm in total agreement about the care and manner of death that food animals receive and it's vitally important to care. However, in this story you are hand raising, hand feeding, naming, befriending, and giving treats to animals who obviously come to know you. Then on purpose you load up an animal who trusts you and you drive it to its death. Not because it is sick or in pain like the disabled animals in your fur family. You stick your hand in so it can sniff you, and it ripped my heart out. Frankly, I don't feel the loving cycle of life for Sebastian that you are trying to convey. If it (the raising of animals for slaughter) happens, I guess it happens but to describe it here where we love the animals and applaud the wonderful care (and efforts to maintain their lives) this story feels harsh and cruel. To read about purposefully killing an animal you've named and feed treats is almost too much to bear. I really wish you had not wanted to share this particular story.

Thank you so much for sharing. I seldom eat meat myself as I hate to think of what an animal goes through in a commercial slaughterhouse. But, I do have to admit that I didn't take it a step further and think about what goes into commercial pet foods. Seems hypocritical of me to have one criteria for myself and a different one for my animal companions. What an eye opener!

I'll definitely look into alternatives for pet foods. Since I'm retired now and live in an area that abounds with organic farms, I'm sure to find a local source of protein for my four-legged carnivores.

Thank you so much for sharing and opening my eyes!

This is just awesome awesome awesome! I don't know how you find the time to keep it all together and now raising your own livestock and making all the food. I am a nutritionist and have been making homemade food for my pets for years and I'm so happy to hear you're doing that plus more! You inspire me to do more all the time with your values and ideas.

Europeans are ahead of us in many aspects of feeding their animals quality foods. 30 Yrs ago, living in Germany with our two large mutts, one became ill in her prime with chronic pancreatitis. Needing to limit her fat and re-establish beneficial gut bacteria to keep her healthy, our German vet had us feeding a dry food called Hundeflocken, literally, dog flakes, that was mostly oats and rice, cooked and pressed into flakes. This was available even at the large discount stores, because it was so widely used. Most Germans mixed it with meat drippings and trimmings for a complete meal. We fed our dog the dry flakes mixed with plain non-fat yogurt and boiled hamburger. She lived to almost 16, and had the most beautiful coat, and it kept her chronic illness under control.

So, bravo to you for getting off the commercial foods and letting your ethical standards be your guide. It isn't convenient or in any way easy to do so, but our world is much better for it. And thanks for all the links to more info.

Great article - I totally agree with you that the issue of humanely raising animals for food is so important and I have stopped buying any meat that is not local here in Upstate NY and found there were quite a lot of options. Thanks for helping educate people once again - you guys are amazing - and I'm glad you kept Fuzzy too!

Oh my gosh, a subject near & dear to my heart, altho I hadn't gotten into the whole pet food problem yet. I watched the DVD Food Inc. last year after seeing Michael Pollan on Oprah. Eye opening to say the least & stomach turning. We purchase a buffalo every year locally so that is what we eat, plus have been trying to find local chickens to purchase. We do try to feed the dogs the best commercial dog food we could find, I give them Blue Buffalo brand, dry & canned mixed. Terrible expensive tho, I am thinking it wouldn't be any more expensive to feed them real meat. Thanks so much for this post, another eye opener. I wish you would post the recipe you use as I know it would benefit alot of us.
I know the buffalo we get is raise as well as any animal could be & it is so much better for you than beef. I like it much better too so that is a plus. I have never had a more tender steak & the roasts are wonderful. Anyone having the opportunity to try some really should.
Glad you are doing well in NH, we do miss you here in Montana tho!

The world would be a MUCH better place if more folks were like you two. Thank you so much for everything you do for the animals, and for our planet.

Thanks, Steve and Alayne, for your honesty--having relatives who farmed, I had some exposure in childhood to the end of life for animals on a small family farm. I have a fondness for cows but would not deny my three dogs the meat that they need. The important points for me are that Sebastian had a life and a death that the majority of cows and steers don't have anymore. As humans, we should be eating meat of a quality equal to the RDR crew--the use of staggering amounts of chemicals and drugs on our food source animals is a concern. We found this out the hard way when one of our children reacted to beef from an animal that had been fed antibiotics to which she is allergic.

What a thoughtful post. I'm an omnivore, but after reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and watching films like "Food, Inc" I've become a much more educated consumer. I buy organic, local and sustainable as much as I can,including meats. I applaud what you are doing for your animals. To be honest, I hadn't thought about it from the perspective of what I feed my cats. Now, I have something to consider. Thanks again for the post.

Fascinating. My grandfather owned and operated a slaughterhouse here in SC for years. He was also an animal-lover, horsetrainer and raised Austrailian Shepherds. When he closed his doors, he said he'd killed his last animal. My brother briefly took up hunting and my grandfather refused to accompany him. Turns out my brother is a terrible hunter- never killed anything. He didn't have the heart to pull the trigger. I have a terrible time being "OK" with eating meat or eggs. I drink almond milk and rarely eat cheese. I absolutely couldn't have taken Sebastian but what you are doing is admirable. Dogs and cats were definitely meant to eat meat but I still choose not to feed them lamb. I just can't be okay with that. Fortunately, we live in an area that has many local farmers who believe in organic and free-range methods. Their farms are actually open to the public for tours. This really is a fascinating topic. HOpe you post more!

Before I read everyone else's opinions I want to say to you Steve and Alayne, Bravo. You put thought and time and education into everything you do. Yes feeding home grown beef to your animals has to be so hard, but what are you going to do? The beef has to come from somewhere and how better than to gently raise it yourself. You are both so thoughtful, kind, and considerate of all the creatures on this planet. Yes, you may get some negative comments but you will never please everyone (like the comments about Margaret and her sister..we love Margaret!). Keep up the good work. No animal, be it cat, dog, horse, donkey, skunk, cow....could have a better life. Thank you for your kindness and consideration. Now I can read what everyone else wrote. Anne

That was super difficult to read, but I agree with (almost) everything you said.

I do think there's also a lot of data showing that dogs don't need meat to be healthy, but that doesn't matter. You're the wonderful caretaker for all of these wonderful disabled doggies, and you're doing what you think is best- and if you're going to feed them meat, you're doing it in the best possible way.

These dogs are all lucky to have found their way to your sanctuary!!

I commend you Steve for visiting the slaughterhouse first hand. It's been said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls we'd all be vegans. Thank you for doing what most of us will never be able to do - take the final step to ensure your beloved cattle have a humane death with dignity.

Thanks for this post. It's a difficult thing to do and as a Vegan, I figured if I can't kill it to eat or wear, then I don't eat it or wear it. However, for my cats and dogs it's a different story. We too have tried the vegetarian diet for them, but they did not do well on it. As a Buddhist friend of mine said, "It's a dilemma in compassion". Compassion for the animals that are killed, and compassion for those animals that live with me and I love. This is quite a struggle for me and I have dwelt on it a lot. I haven't had anything killed yet for them, but I have boiled organic chickens and veggies and for now, buy the best commercial food I can afford for them. In my heart, there just isn't a good alternative, so I have to do what is best for the animals I live with and move on.

I thank you for this article. I made the personal decision to only buy locally raised, humanely processed meat last year,but until this morning, when I read this, I never thought about where the dry food comes from that I feed to my dogs. What an eye-opener. Though I've recently been trying to remember what we fed the dogs we had when I was little, long before dry dog food became big business. I can't remember exactly, but my grandmother got all our meat from the local butcher shop, so I'm assuming the dog's food came from there as well. I'm now going to explore alternatives to commercial products for my dogs.
I do know my dogs have digestive/allergy problems with some of the dry food I feed, all of which disappear when I feed them ground beef, chicken and rice. My dogs love to eat carrots, green beans and apples that I add to their food, but I don't think they'd take too kindly to an all vegetable diet either.take care and thanks for all that you share.

I applaud you! I have been dealing with the same issues on a smaller level, for my pets.
So many hours of searching for humanly developed pet food.
I currently have mine on Innova, also. (dogs and cats)
Bless you, for doing what is really a humane, and the right thing, for our living creatures!

I want to thank you for your post and especially for your suggestions for those of us who do not live on farms. Having lived with cats, who must have an amino acid that can only be found in meat to survive, I've never been uncomfortable with the fact that there's a food chain or that people are part of that food chain. But like you, I've always believed we have a moral obligation to our food animals to give them happy and healthy lives and to kill them humanely. It's not only the moral thing to do, it produces much healthier food for us and for our pets. And I like that you name your food animals. It shows respect. Thank you again!

Reading of Sebastian's death did prove sad, but I think of it in terms, not of sacrificing Sebastian and the other cattle in your care, but of saving other cattle from terrible lives and fear-filled deaths. I'm a vegan who feeds my carnivorous dogs meat. I'll do what I personally can to lower the number of cattle that are slaughtered, but dogs aren't human and require different diets than we do.

Humans are Fruitivores and Dogs are Carnivores,the correct ways of living are essential!
All we can do is the best we can with the resources we have available.
I hope you and Alayne find the inspiration to become full time Vegans.
It would benefit you and the animals.

I agree with all the posts here and everything I would have said has been said already, so I'll keep it short and sweet. Thank you for the very insightful and thoughtful post on a subject that the majority of people are unaware of. I'm always amazed at how much you and Alayne undertake at the ranch.

Thank you for doing the best for the RDR crew!

"it’s important that they live a humane life with dignity and identity."

Exactly. I just bought a calf from a local organic dairy to process for my dogs, to supplement what they get from my chickens and quail (which are also for the dogs). It was the first large mammal I have butchered and it didn't help that he was terribly cute with soft fur and big brown eyes.

It took hours to make the first cut (the farmer dispatched it) and was as daunting as a blank canvas. I experience a tremendous personal conflict whenever it comes to taking an animals life for food, which sometimes lasts for weeks before I commit to following thru with the slaughter, followed by intermittent periods of intense guilt and hand wringing later.

It's easier for me to go thru with it knowing that it is for my loved meat eating dogs, and that in the animals short life, it was well cared for. This is what I have to remind myself of during the whole process. It's a far better solution than buying an anonymous "animal in a bag" from the store and I end up appreciating every food animal that comes to me, before and after death.

I can't improve on the thoughtful blog and comments that have already been made---I have been a vegetarian for 20 years and my Vet was one too but said our pets must have meat. Our upmost respect and you and Alayne!

Thank you Steve for writing this post. I appreciate your balanced view.

wow. I commend you for your dedication and resolve. Good luck in your endeavor. As you become more comfortable with home cooked diets, I would recommend that you don't rely 100% on BalanceIt supplements. It's a great starting point. You should be able to provide all of the vitamins and minerals all the animals need over time.

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