Truffles are incredibly expensive mushrooms with a short shelf life and an earthy musky flavor. They are often shredded over pizza, pasta, and other savory foods, turning any meal into a delicacy. Unfortunately, dogs have gotten caught in the middle of the truffle trade and are essential to bringing these pricey fungi to tables around the world. 

Here’s what you need to know about what the truffle industry does to dogs. 

What’s Happening 

While pigs are also used for truffle hunting, dogs are the real professionals. A successful truffle hunter requires several trained dogs to sniff out the forests and identify the mushrooms. However, dogs’ fame in the industry has threatened their wellbeing. According to The Atlantic, “some hunters have planted spiked traps or poisoned meatballs in the weeds of select patches to eliminate expertly trained dogs, and then returned to the area later to sweep up truffles with their own hounds.” It is not uncommon for highly-trained dogs to go missing and for newspapers in areas popular for truffle hunting to display pictures of missing dogs. 

One truffle hunter has three of his dogs stolen from his Farm in Celano, Italy. In 1998, The LA Times published an article stating that at least 40 dogs died from eating poisoned meat pieces scattered in the woods at the beginning of the autumn truffle hunting season. 

Dog Breeding 

Only specific dog breeds are used for truffle hunting, which is where another kind of exploitation comes in: dog breeding. There are several issues associated with breeding animals, the main one being that turning a living creature into a commodity increases the risk of treating them more like an object, and not an animal that deserves love and compassion. Many dog breeders also abuse, neglect, and inbreed dogs resulting in extreme suffering.

Some dogs are trained to associate truffle oil with rewards starting as young as three days old. One truffle dog breeder rubs truffle oil on the mom’s belly to introduce it to the puppies. As the puppies grow up, truffles are a part of everyday life. Many truffle breeders insist truffle hunting is a game to the eager canines. 

This isn’t to say that every breeder is inherently malicious, but treating dogs unfairly, especially when they’re so heavily relied on for profit, is not uncommon. 

So… Are Truffles Vegan? 

This is where things get complicated. While truffles are technically vegan, (they don’t contain any animal products) they do require trained and specially-bred dogs to be harvested and thus, can often be unethical. While some vegans wouldn’t go as far as to say that truffles aren’t vegan, many choose not to eat them because of the ethical issues associated with truffle-hunting.

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