The Null Device

Time to eat the dog?

Two New Zealand academics who specialise in sustainability claim that keeping pets has a catastrophic carbon footprint. In a book titled Time To Eat The Dog?, Professors Brenda and Robert Vale claim that a medium-sized dog has the carbon footprint of two SUVs driven 10,000km in a year, a cat is slightly less environmentally damaging than a Volkswagen Golf, and two hamsters are equivalent to a plasma TV (though, alas, wouldn't generate nearly enough electricity to actually power one).
"If you have a German shepherd or similar-sized dog, for example, its impact every year is exactly the same as driving a large car around," Brenda Vale said.
The sustainable thing, the Vales claim, would be to only keep animals you intend to eat:
"The title of the book is a little bit of a shock tactic, I think, but though we are not advocating eating anyone's pet cat or dog there is certainly some truth in the fact that if we have edible pets like chickens for their eggs and meat, and rabbits and pigs, we will be compensating for the impact of other things on our environment."
Professor Vale took her message to Wellington City Council last year, but councillors said banning traditional pets or letting people keep food animals in their homes were not acceptable options.

There are 5 comments on "Time to eat the dog?":

Posted by: Hu Jintao Tue Oct 27 05:21:01 2009

"two hamsters are equivalent to a plasma TV"

With the US dollar losing its viability as world reserve currency, and the need for a new unit of accounting which includes the externalities of climate change, I think we have a winner.

Posted by: Cocoa Tue Oct 27 06:40:49 2009

Professors Brenda and Robert Vale are free to make controversial claims about the "eco-footprints" of pets. It will probably help them sell books and make a lot of money. But their calculations smell bad. When <a href=""><b>real numbers from reliable sources</b></a> are used, it turns out that they got things wrong by a factor of twenty.

Best Regards, Cocoa

Posted by: gjw Tue Oct 27 21:18:35 2009

Thinking about the carbon footprint of my two dogs, the only resources they consume are food (half vegetables, half meat that humans wouldn't eat), water, and a small amount of space. The authors may be correct in their thesis, but the elephant in the room seems to be that people would have to consume orders of magnitude more resources than dogs, and so would be much more efficient targets for euthanasia, no?

Posted by: ctime Tue Oct 27 21:57:03 2009

What is clear is that EVERYTHING we humans do has an impact on our environment. In principle I agree with this article, however, I would want to see any of the precious animals in my life gone. I do however recognize that owning and caring for an animal does have a serious impact on the planet and should not be taken lightly. It is a luxury to be able to afford domesticated animals. That said, certain animals should not be domesticated.

Posted by: George Michael Mon Nov 2 02:33:39 2009

To coincide with the Copenhagen climate conference and by public demand, George Michael will release a brand new version of his single, "Eat the Dog," on the 7th December on Last Christmas Records.