Man’s best friend is the planet’s enemy?

15 November, 2009

Interesting article in a recent New Scientist, called “Cute, fluffy and horribly greedy”

….. Waggly tail or not, owning a pet comes at a far higher cost than you might imagine. As you watch a large dog bounding out of the back of an SUV, you might mentally reprimand the owner for their choice of vehicle. You would do better to save your indignation for their choice of pet. Because….. the ecological footprint of our companion animals can dwarf that of even the most gas-guzzling cars. Man’s best friend, it turns out, is the planet’s enemy.

According to the authors of the new book Time to Eat the Dog, it takes 0.84 hectares of land to keep a medium-sized dog fed. In contrast, running a 4.6-litre Toyota Land Cruiser, including the energy required to construct the thing and drive it 10,000 kilometres a year, requires 0.41 hectares. Dogs are not the only environmental sinners. The eco-footprint of a cat equates to that of a Volkswagen Golf.

If that’s troubling, there is an even more shocking comparison. In 2004, the average citizen of Vietnam had an ecological footprint of 0.76 hectares. For an Ethiopian, it was just 0.67 hectares. In a world where scarce resources are already hogged by the rich, can we really justify keeping pets that take more than some people?

Interesting and provocative.  But I’m not so sure that the analysis is fair.  If all the dog owners got rid of their pooches, I suspect they would spend the money on an alternative indulgence that would be equally bad for the environment, such as a second (or third) holiday.

No, I think the real problem is not that there are too many pets in this world.  It’s simply that there are too many humans, and our number is increasing by 210,000 every day.  Any environmentalist or climate change activist who ignores this is allowing themselves to be in thrall to the last great taboo.

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One Response to “Man’s best friend is the planet’s enemy?”

  1. DJDJ Says:

    All too true. But escalating population growth is a 3rd world problem, and one that is almost impossible to do anything about very easily. Domestic pets are however a luxury and lifestyle choice of 1st world society.


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