Your Pet Is a Global Warming Machine

| 10/27/2009 2:21:39 PM

Global Warming DogThough some environmentalists love their dogs more than they love their Sierra Club reusable water bottles, a single dog can have a bigger ecological footprint than an SUV. And cats aren’t much better. According to research highlighted by the New Scientist, it takes an estimated 1.1 hectares of land per year to create the chicken and grain that a large dog eats for its food. A Toyota Land Cruiser SUV, driven 10,000 kilometres a year, would use .41 hectares of land, less than half that of the dog. 

"Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance," Dr. John Barrett of the Stockholm Environment Institute in York, UK told the New Scientist, "mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat." 

Cats and dogs also wreak havoc on the local wildlife. The estimated 7.7 million cats in the United Kingdom kill more than 188 million wild animals every year. And cat excrement, which can contain the disease Toxoplasma gondii, has been blamed for killing sea otters (and may have a hand in causing schizophrenia in humans, according to RadioLab).*

The New Scientist has some suggestions of how to lessen Fido’s ecological “pawprint,” including feeding him more environmentally friendly foods. Perhaps forcing people to consider the impact of their pets may keep the carbon footprint on a leash.

Source: New ScientistRadioLab 

Image by Bodlina, licensed under Creative Commons.

5/10/2014 9:23:27 PM

Interesting. The reason I no longer have cats is because of the devastating effects they have on the bird-life. If they only ate rats I would probably have 5 of them. I'm not sure I would enjoy life as much without a couple of dogs though. I live in the mountains, and aside from the companionship they are actually useful in several areas. For one, they keep the bobcats away from my chickens. I could not even consider free ranging chickens without a dog. Also, my wife and I sleep a little more soundly knowing that if a human threat ever did wander down our lonely mountain driveway the dogs WILL let me know. When my wife hikes she takes a dog. Whenever I encounter a woman on the trail I always try and put myself in her position. In this crazy world I wouldn't dare hike without a dog if I was female. I hope I am not coming off as too paranoid but there are many other (non-paranoid) functions dogs perform; which is why we domesticated them in the first place. I do think that too many city people probably have dogs; especially the ones who are left in an apartment all day. I think a bigger problem is 7 billion people in the world. Dogs didn't seem to be a problem until hum ans over-populated. Just my .02.

8/5/2011 11:58:40 AM

THis reads like a propaganda piece--how is a 'carbon footprint' defined in this case? Seems like the amount of carbon generated by driving an SUV vs. a dog (the waste from which is reclaimed? . . . er, sort of :-) ) are two very different things. Also, the manufacturing of a car should be considered. Did someone sneak into Utne and slip this bit of disinfo onto a server? A payment made in a dark alley? Apologies for suggesting dishonesty, but I've seen articles and stories in other publications/news outlets that seemed like well placed propaganda. This wouldn't come across as such if it gave a more careful, step-by-step explanation of how the comparisons were made. (btw--an example of well placed propaganda: it was a while ago, but I heard a story on the local NPR outlet about Canadians taking chartered buses to the U.S. to medical care because they didn't want to wait/couldn't get such in Canada. I tried to look up the story on the station's site and in general on the internet. No luck. It seemed to have slipped into the announcers hands from somewhere and then poof, disappeared. Other stories also serve various interests in a seemingly calculated manner and FAIR gives a pretty thorough coverage of corporate produced news segments.)

7/26/2011 11:27:13 AM

re. Patti: If humans are by far the MOST detrimental to the environment of any species, then surely it's because of what we do--the choices we make. Like the choice of owning pets. And because, when evidence is presented that our personal choices have a large impact on the environment, we simply refuse to countenance the idea. Or they rationalise "it doesn't matter what my impact is, because someone else's is bigger". Pet owners are a lot like SUV owners in this regard. Rapacious and unconscious indeed.

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