Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dogs are worse than SUVs

According to this article here, dogs have a larger carbon footprint than an SUV, largely due to their diet. Now, one of the many arguments that people use to argue for vegetarianism, is that it is less taxing to the environment. Michael Pollen says that a vegetarian in a Hummer has a smaller carbon footprint than a meat eater in a Prius. I think the research is pretty conclusive about the heaviness of meat in a diet.

However, since dogs and cats are obligate carnivores, they will consequently have a larger carbon footprint on the earth, than say myself, a vegetarian. Should I get rid of my two cats?

There's some scoffing in the article where Williams-Derry says that a dog would have to eat twice as much as a human does.... But I'm not sure if the math works out, since most people don't eat mostly meat, whereas most dogs do eat mostly meat. Compare a person on atkins to a dog, sure the person will have the bigger footprint. But the average american with all of the carbs included, I think would be equal to a dog's carbon footprint solely in food consumption (assuming a relatively large dog not those things that people try to pass as dogs that resemble more like rodents).

Whats keeping me from getting rid of my cats, besides that they're abnoxiously cute and lovable, is that the carbon argument is only one piece of a larger argument against meat. I'm primarily concerned with the cruelty that is involved in factory farming. I'm also concerned about the carbon cost of meat, as well as my vegetables, but I think in the grand scheme of things, the carbon cost is secondary to many other important concerns (only begrudgingly secondary).

Dogs also help people appreciate the environment more, I think. When people have fun with their dogs, its often at a park, in nature, etc, and at the very least helps us feel empathetic with other animals, which is lacking in the other spheres of animal interaction.

But it does give me serious pause. Maybe I shouldn't get a replacement cat when my cats inevitably die.


  1. I do not think it is fair to compare the meat consumption of our pets to our own. Most pet food is made from our scraps and leavings. Sure it takes energy to produce and ship a bag of kibble, but I would be willing to bet the stockyards dedicated to Purina couldn't hold a methane-powered candle to the those that fuel McDonald's. All in all I doubt your cats have as much of a footprint as your television.

  2. Fair or not, they contribute to greenhouse gasses, and unless there is good evidence that the study is flawed, it looks like we have to feed my cats tofu.

  3. The carbon footprint is an arbitrary number (arbitrary in a way we decide to compute it, sort of like a speed limit), which "green-conscious” people can use to estimate their impact on environment.
    Cats and Dogs *are* part of the environment itself. To say that a cat or a dog has a “carbon footprint” is to say that national parks, or rather creatures that reside there, require X millions of gallons of water, and if we wanted to save water we should just burn down the national parks and divert the water to a system of reservoirs instead of letting it run down, wastefully, into the forests, where it will be consumed by wasteful plants and animals.
    Granted, cats are much more domesticated than, let’s say, grizzly bears. However, they are still part of the eco-system, and, one can successfully argue that even domesticated animals are becoming extinct (think the drop in population of horses in developed countries or try to imagine a typical American farm a hundred years ago and compare it to what you might expect to see today.) Each animal you shelter and provide for in your own house should be compared to a bonus to your carbon footprint (sort of like another compost pile), not as a penalty. Mental exercise: think of all the benefits of a diverse, dispersed, (and immunized), population of cats and dogs.
    Further argument (kind of getting lazy, but maybe you can follow the line). By comparing the dogs and cats to SUV’s, you are tramping on the intrinsic value of animal life and objectifying your fuzzy friends by comparing them to a (literally) a sports-utility vehicle.
    My two cents…

  4. If we take that line of thought, we're also part of the eco-system, so it shouldn't matter what our carbon footprint is either...

    My cats don't have to exist, and they wouldn't exist if people didn't keep them as pets. So if fewer people kept them as pets, then it would be like removing hummers off the road.

  5. Dear Wayne, I'd really like to see the hummers and also many of the cars removed off the roads!
    I have chosen alredy. I took the dog.
    I wish you all do the same.
    Waddo you think about the in-land-produced BARF-diet for dogs? It's about 70% fleshy bones, the rest consisting of internal organs, fish and vegetables.
    Still, one more thing concerning my mind. Did they calculate cars' whole cost into the footprint? Like digging the minerals and other materials, building and maintaining the car factory? Did they calculate all the acessories and the care and maintenance of the car? How about the processing the car-junk after it's done?

  6. Bridget-
    Not sure if they calculate the total carbon footprint of a car, but I bet they don't only because it would be rather difficult to do that, considering parts are manufactured in different places, and shipped to some other location for assembly, then shipped to be sold.

    I don't have a dog, so I'm not terribly familiar with the BARF diet, but it sounds like its still made up of animals mostly, regardless of which exact part of the animal, which means that it is going to have a larger carbon footprint.