Spanish Youtuber Sonia Sae, who uses her channel to share advice on how to live on a plant-based diet, has come under fire for putting her pet fennec fox on a vegan diet after photos of the shockingly thin animal were shared online.
Animal activists and some of Sonia Sae’s own followers have accused her of animal cruelty after the Youtuber admitted that she has been raising Jumanji, her pet fennec fox, on a vegan diet, ever since she rescued him from a breeder in 2014. Photos of the seemingly-malnourished fox have been circulating online, along with some of Sae’s own posts in which she admits that Jumanji suffers from “spontaneous convulsions”, “half blindness” and has exhibited weight loss. A petition demanding that the Youtuber either feed Jumanji a “proper” diet or hand him over to a sanctuary that can meet its complex needs.
“Sonia has refused to listen to experts who are all appalled at her treatment of Jumanji and have contacted her regarding the health of her fennec fox,” Facebook user Alice Natanya Moore wrote in a post that has been shared over 28,000 times. She also shared emails she received from animal welfare organisations that also express their concerns about the animal’s health.
According to the website Foxes and Friends, a domesticated fennec fox’s diet should “reflect their natural wild diet” and should include “high-quality meat-rich dog food, wild canine food brands, cat food, meats, insects, mealworms, custom dietary mixtures, or any combination.”
After Moore’s post went viral on social media, Sonia Sae was bombarded with comments from people asking her to put Jumanji on a proper diet, but she pushed back against the criticism, saying that her pet’s worrying appearance was caused not by the vegan diet, but a pollen allergy. She insisted that Jumanji gets “all the needed amino acids for a carnivore animal such as taurine and lysine.”
“Thank you for being concerned about his health on this subject. He is in good shape, his blood tests are fine, he’s healthy, playful and hasn’t shown any signs of malnutrition for around 3 years,” the vegan Youtuber wrote on Facebook.
“Jumanji is fine. I would never do something to jeopardise his health,” Sonia told The Sun. “The pictures that have been shared are from a pollen allergy he has – in fact, most of them are from 2015 when he was being fed meat.”
In another Facebook post, Sae slammed her critics for accusing her of abuse when they are the ones who are in fact supporting animal abuse: “They use the word ‘abuse’ to describe the act of feeding [it] food that no animal had to die for. Despite the obvious oxymoron, any other non-vegan alternative does involve abuse by default.”
Sae has since also uploaded a couple of videos of Jumanji looking much healthier than in the viral photos, running around and jumping on the bed, to show people that they had been misled. However, that didn’t pan out too well, as many people started accusing her of using a healthy-looking fennec fox to cover her abuse.
She’s not giving up, though. The Barcelona-based Youtuber said she will be posting a new video “debunking all the lies that some people have spread about this whole situation, putting updated blood tests, explaining his story etc,” although it’s not clear when this will be.
The scandal has also sparked a debate over whether people should keep fennec foxes as pets in the first place. Dr Heather Rally, a supervising veterinarian for the PETA Foundation, certainly doesn’t think so.
“Fennec foxes are sensitive, vulnerable nocturnal animals who are naturally frightened of humans and should never be kept as companion animals,” Rally told BBC. “PETA is urging Ms Sae to send this displaced fox to a sanctuary that can meet his complex needs and to visit her local animal shelter, where a lovable dog or cat has been waiting for her.”