Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dogs are worse than SUVs part II

My very first blog post here was about Dogs being worse than SUVs for the environment.

One of the arguments for vegetarianism is that it lightens our carbon footprint, and since dogs (and cats) are carnivores, they have a heavier carbon footprint than a vegetarian pet like a parrot.

So it stands to reason that there are really three options that we have with our carnivorous pets:
1.  Continue keeping them, and ignore or try to rationalize the environmental impact of our pets.
2.  Don't keep carnivorous pets.
3.  Continue to keep carnivorous pets, and change their diet to a vegetarian one.

There might be a few more options I'm missing, but I think these are the most obvious choices for most people.  So what should we do?  In my original post, I suggested that I might have to move towards 2, out of concern for the environment.  But rarely are things so cut and dry.  Many pets would exist regardless of people taking them in or not, and in my case, both of my cats were kidnapped from litters that were given birth to by stray cats.  However, my taking them in has guaranteed a particular impact on the environment, whereas, if I left them, they may have died to a car accident or starvation, or animal control.

So now we're balancing animal welfare against carbon emission.  To say that one is more important than the other is odd, since one of the reasons for concern about carbon emission is the welfare of the animals that would be affected by global warming. 

I don't think option 1 is a terribly rational position, so I'm not going to defend it much, or give it much analysis.  But I do want to point out that when I first posted the original entry, this is what most people seemed to opt.  Either the carbon footprint is negligible or there are other benefits that we get from keeping animals that outweigh the harm done to the environment.  But arguably, I could make the same arguments about SUVs.

Now the third option is a questionable one as well, because if we turn our carnivorous pets vegetarians, they may not be very happy.  So we'd be trading a portion of their happiness for a large portion of carbon emissions (I say a portion because I'm assuming that the vegetarian pet food out there undergoes significant processing which would make it less carbon friendly).  And lets not forget that some pets have special dietary restrictions/formulas that they need.

None of the obvious options seem like a very good solution, and well probably be getting another cat when one of my two die eventually.   So in actuality, I'm in camp 1, but I don't like being there.


  1. I guess it makes you consider how much of a claim to life these pets have. I have a carbon footprint, so the environment and other people around me might be better off if I didn't exist, but I have the RIGHT to live, which is why I'm here.

    But I don't suppose a kitten has the same caliber of right to life that I do. Then again, I think maybe they do have enough right, and make us happy enough to justify their destructive qualities...

  2. I'm not sure if it makes much sense to talk about rights in degree. Either you have a right or you don't. The scope of a right, what the right protects you from, or allows you to do, might come in degrees though.

    But I thinik it makes more sense to simply talk about value. Humans are more valuable than cats usually, and so if given the choice, we should sacrifice a cat versus the human, so long as the human is less valuable. But if the cat were more valuable than the human, say because it holds within its genes the cure for human cancer, then you'd sacrifice a human for the sake of the cat.

    But how much of a claim to life that these pets/animals have is a good question. I think if they already exist, they have a significant claim on continuing to exist. But as pet owners, we create a demand that causes people to make more cats to satisfy that demand. If we simply didn't keep cats, then there would be fewer cat breeders, and consequently a smaller carbon footprint.

  3. To go absurd in the argument, we have a 4th option, get rid of as many unnecessary high-carbon-footprint beings as possible, or at least offset your own carbon emissions by ridding the planet of other ones. I might use my SUV to run over as many cats, dogs and other carnivores or omnivores (including humans) as I can. This should offset my carbon footprint and reduce both stray and human populations, arguably a concern of environmentalists who point to the "fact" that the planet cannot sustain this many humans. But, then there's Kyle's argument, we have a "right" to exist.

  4. yeah, I wouldn't buy that argument at all, since the reason we're doing it (reduce carbon emissions) is to mitigate the harm that is being done to the creatures we'd be eliminating.

    Kill the patient to cure the disease.

  5. Oh no, I'm killing them to save myself and the planet. Kill the other diseases, to save the one that is myself.