Is it time to eat your dog? This provocative question – intended with a great deal of exaggeration, of course – is also the title of a 2009 book by authors Robert and Brenda Fell, who sought to map the environmental effects of pet farming. And they showed, as many subsequent scientific studies have done, that the carbon footprint of dogs and cats in particular is large.
Animals make us happy, keep us away from loneliness, and for many people they are the only companion in life. On the other hand, keeping a large dog, for example, results in emissions of up to ten thousand kilometers in an SUV.
This does not mean that owners should get rid of their four-legged friends, but rather consider where else to save the resulting carbon footprint. For example, reduce your meat consumption, buy electricity from green sources or use public transportation more often.
According to Ecolist Dog and cat food often comes from leftovers that would otherwise have been discarded. On the other hand, farms that raise animals for slaughter solely for the purpose of producing pet food are no exception, which increases the total meat production even more.
So the problem is not in raising pets, but in raising animals intended for slaughter. Today, meat consumption is one of the most important sources of greenhouse gas emissions and also a pretext for deforestation. So the carbon footprint of pets, especially carnivores, could theoretically be reduced by reducing the amount of meat these animals consume.
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However, vets warn that switching to a plant-based diet is not a good idea, especially for cats. Cats, as exclusive carnivores, cannot absorb plant proteins and need the full range of essential substances and nutrients for a healthy life. And with its lack, the animal can die.
Although animal proteins can be produced artificially, according to some studies, there is a risk that even if the animal does not eat the artificial protein “on paper”, it will not be able to absorb it.
Domesticated dogs are far from their ancestors of wolves, for example they can digest starch, and therefore we consider them more like carnivores. They are not as sensitive to a balanced diet as cats are, as they can produce some vitamins and other substances in their bodies. But they can be allergic to animal proteins, for example, and they can’t process a vegetarian diet in addition to a meat diet.
Among other things, this is also why the Central Committee for Animal Protection issued an opinion last year that feeding plant foods to animals that are naturally carnivores can be considered cruelty.
Thus, insects can reduce the high carbon footprint of pets in the future. It has already been added to some feeds today and, according to scientists, has the same nutritional values as regular meat. At the same time, insect breeding is more environmentally friendly than traditional livestock production. Insect farms have lower requirements in terms of space, water and nutrition.
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