Pets are brilliant. Whether you own a budgie or a hamster, a dog, cat, snake or fish, our pets bring us so much joy! We love our pets… but just how ECOFRIENDLY are they? Let's look at PETS’ CARBON PAWPRINT....
1. PET FOOD
Feeding our pets – particularly CATS AND DOGS – creates over 64 million tons of carbon dioxide every year (ouch!). MEATY PET FOOD is the culprit: 25-30% of the environmental impact of meat eating comes from pet food. And the pet food market shows no signs of slowing down. Globally, it is worth a whopping 94 billion dollars (that’s over £71 billion). So, what’s on the menu?
• DRY AND WET dog and cat food. A meaty minefield of eco-hazard…
• The Biologically Appropriate Raw Food dog diet (or BARF for short). Closest to a natural diet. Being meaty, it’s NOT eco-friendly.
• VEGAN pet food. Dogs and cats are NOT naturally vegetarian, but a tasty meat substitute called koji might provide a meat-free protein solution!
• INSECTS. An excellent, eco-friendly source of protein! (‘Pedigree Cricket’, anyone?)
• Home-cooked meals. Eco-thumbs-up!
In fact, a mixed and varied diet is best for both environmental AND animal health.
Dog poop is more than sticky and stinky. It can be full of unpleasant bacteria, such as e-coli, tapeworm, hookworm and all sorts of yuck. Cat poop has some even nastier nasties. It all needs to be carefully disposed of. In 2018, there were 900 million DOGS in the world, with nearly nine million dogs in the UK alone. Our pets are producing record quantities of POOP – approximately one million tons every year in the UK.
WHAT DO WE DO WITH ALL THE POO?
“BAG IT AND BIN IT!” Yes, but the problem is plastic. Even ecopoo bags are designed to be COMPOSTED rather than landfilled. When the bags are buried underground, they don’t degrade. The poop produces METHANE – a big, bad greenhouse gas. (Compostables need to get ‘hot to rot’, so harmful bacteria is destroyed.)
3. BAD CATS?
This is curious… Every year, cats kill billions of birds, mammals and reptiles worldwide. In the UK, they kill at least 55 million birds. Strangely, there is no scientific evidence that bird numbers are dropping. In fact, garden bird numbers are increasing. UK bird species under threat (such as skylarks) are suffering due to things like habitat loss. Nothing to do with cats!
PETS ARE FANTASTIC!
OK, we’ve talked about the bad stuff, but pets are still absolutely brilliant! Here’s WHY:
- A pet makes you feel valued, needed and loved.
- Caring for a pet gives you a sense of purpose.
- Your dog gives you unconditional love.
- Sociable: walking a dog in the park gets you out and about.
- Mental health: owning a pet is calming and relaxing, and just stroking a cat reduces anxiety.
- Children: living with a pet teaches responsibility and kindness.
- Exercise: dog walking keeps YOU fit and healthy, as well as your dog! Dogs and cats are brought into hospitals and schools to HELP relax patients and children.
BE A GREEN PET OWNER
- 1. Put a bell on your cat’s collar to warn birds.
- 2. Adopt a pet, don’t buy one – plenty need new homes.
- 3. Scoop the poop – but also ask your local council to invest in some poop-powered street lighting! Or a sustainable poop-composting plant.
- 4. DIET – choose chicken or duck based food over beef to reduce the carbon pawprint.
- 5. FOOD PACKAGING – avoid those indestructible plastic pouches! Billions end up in landfill every year. Go for paper-wrapped food and recyclable trays and tins instead.
Enjoyed reading this feature? Find out more about your favourite pets in issue 54, Fantastic Pets!