Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How green is your pet?

The Age recently  ran an article titled Pooch pie on the menu if we don't cut ecological pawprint (November 25, 2010). The source for this article appears to be an article from New Scientist published last year How green is your pet? (23 October 2009 - subscription required) which was drawn from the book Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living.  The main thrust of the argument is that owning a large dog is in many ways as damaging to the environment as owning a large 4WD - due to the amount of meat consumed by the pet.

From The Age article:

If the entire country went vegetarian, it would in all likelihood have a noticeable effect on our ecological footprint. At the present rate, though, it's going to come down to sacrifices - and your weekly recycling isn't going to cut it.

Serving up Fido as an entree might be a bit extreme, but one of the most effective ways you can make an impact on your ecological footprint is by not owning a dog. It's not that it never turns the lights off, or leaves the television on all night - its sole crime is the amount it eats in its lifetime (about 164 kilograms of meat and 96 kilograms of cereal a year for a medium-sized dog).

When it comes to an ecological footprint, a dog is the equivalent of two Toyota Land Cruisers, and this includes both the manufacture and use of the car.

From the New Scientist article:
Alternatively, consider the cumulative environmental impact of our furry friends. The US, which tops the list for both cat and dog ownership in absolute terms, is home to over 76 million felines and 61 million canines. Taking the estimated cat population for the top 10 cat-owning countries, the Vales calculate that the land required just to feed these cats is over 400,000 square kilometres. That’s equivalent to one-and-a-half times the area of New Zealand. A further five New Zealands are required to feed the pooches living in the top 10 dog-owning countries...
Two important points:
  1. that's a lot of New Zealands! 
  2. that's more than some estimates of the area required to provide global electricity using solar power!
[Note: I am not a vegetarian, but I do not consume large quantities of meat. ]

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