• Nov 11, 2009
If you don't like dogs, there's now a new reason to continue avoiding canis domesticus. New Zealanders Robert and Brenda Vale have put forth the hypothesis that the care and feeding of a pooch is more environmentally harmful than rolling in a Toyota Land Cruiser. Those shifty, antisocial felines aren't much better, so don't get any more smug than you already are, cat people. One ten-pound feline's care is the same to the environment as a 3300-pound Volkswagen Golf, the theory goes.

The Vales present this work in their book "Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living." The animals that wind up in dog food burden the land while they're alive, and the amount of goodies that people lavish upon their dogs, from squeaky toy to special grooming sessions also do the equivalent work of burning the rainforest.

The claims have been disputed, of course – no doubt by more than a few dog lovers. The chief researcher for Seattle's Sightline Institute, Clark Williams-Derry, ran some numbers of his own and came up with results that don't square with the Vales. The think-tank scientist calculated that for the Vale's numbers to add up, the average dog would have to eat twice as much as the average person, an idea that is difficult to fathom since people are heavier than most dogs.

The takeaway from all this is simply that dog (and cat) ownership does have an ecological footprint. Like everything else in your life, keeping a pet is intertwined with our insatiable consumerism. The truly concerned will carefully consider where the products and items they purchase for their pets are made, what goes into them, and what that means for the planet. The rest of you will keep letting adorable little Beaufort leaves deposit on our lawns.

[Source: Seattle Times | Image: Andrew H. Walker/Getty]


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  • 48 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      First mankind. Now man's best friend. I'm waiting for man's worst enemy to get thrown under the Warming bus. What or who is man's worst enemy? I dunno. Discuss!

      I still find it funny that mankind, as supposed products of nature, are singled out as harming nature. Now keeping dogs and cats, themselves certainly also part of nature, is harming nature. So isn't "nature" doing all the damage to itself?

      That's it. "Mother Nature" is a masochist.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Autoblog must need some page views today. Nothing gets the discussion thread going like global warming.
      • 5 Years Ago
      How about owning a pet if you want to, and being responsible for it.

      How about owning a car that you want to, and being responsible for it.

      And realizing that the planet doesn't need saving, and you couldn't save, nor condemn the planet either way. This planet has survived much worse than human activity.

      How about having liberty, taking responsibility, and some realism to counter such raging ego to think that a slight change can somehow affect a much larger system that has managed itself for longer than human history.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Bus Rand, and anybody who has spend more than two hours outside of YouTube realizes climate change is a real issue that is being affected on many levels by our insatiable consumption. Greenhouse gases are getting picked on immensely, and this is perhaps unfair in the grand scheme of all the factors that are in fact changing our atmospheric conditions, but everything has to be considered. I think this pet thing is stupid, but even more dense is your denial of rational thought.
        • 5 Years Ago
        First of all yes, owning a slobbering sh!t machine does have an impact on the environment. The food it eats, the sh!t that you pick up (and leave traces of) on the sidewalk everyday. When it rains here in Venice Beach, one of the top reasons I can't go swimming is because of massive amount of animal waste that is dumped into the ocean. "Responsible"? Do you you pick up your animal's droppings and then get down with a scrub brush and Lysol to get every last particle? I didn't think so. So thousands, no... hundreds of thousands of people doing this multiple times a day has no impact on the environment? Really?

        And let's say that it doesn't, fine. What about the millions of tons of meat and grain that instead of feeding MILLIONS of hungry people around the world, instead goes to make your poodle's coat shinny? And all of the billions of dollars spent worldwide for food, vet bills, toys, and stupid dog sweaters? Because? You need companionship? Make some human friends. Need protection? Get an alarm and some pepper spray.

        I won't even get into the issue of barking f*cking mutts and their irresponsible owners.

        If you live on a ranch and need to heard sheep, if you are blind and need a guide... Get a dog, naturally. Otherwise... Just owning a dog in an urban environment is financially and environmentally irresponsible. I think people should have to pay an extra tax based on the size of your pet to offset this.

        The difference is, cars actually serve a purpose in modern society.
        • 5 Years Ago
        akboss302 and others who think they know this issue please read #11.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That sounded nice, but it made absolutely no sense.
        • 5 Years Ago
        How much more clearly can I put it?

        Get a dog or don't. Your choice, your responsibility.

        Get a car, SUV, or whatever vehicle you like. Your choice, your responsibility.

        Get a clue that neither choice has impact on the planet, which has survived volcanos, continental drift, ice ages, meteor impacts, and everything else... A car or a dog isn't going to make a whit's difference. Not even a car or a dog for everyone.

        It is pure egotism that these people are playing with, to make people think their choices of pets or vehicles, have cosmic ramifications, when they couldn't possibly have that much impact, even in aggregate.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Can't decide if it's weak attempt at a modest proposal or just another couple of elitist wackos screaming for attention. Either way, they've obviously never had a pet. Which probably explains quite a bit.

        If I wasn't convinced they would taste like tofu and patchouli I'd say let's BBQ the Yales and be done with it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Bob omb, anyone who has spent 2 hours making a legitimate attempt to educate themselves on climate history know that BoxerFanatic makes perfect sense. Try taking your copy of "inconvenient truth (or lie)" out of your DVD player and read or watch some real science, it'll open your eyes.
        • 5 Years Ago
        bro,
        Don't you realize most people think global warming is a FACT.
        Whatever smart, rich politicians tell us is true.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "How about owning a car that you want to, and being responsible for it."

        How exactly would one do that? I can feed my dog table scraps and compost his poop, but how do you address the additional smog my kids have to breathe because you want to drive a Hummer? That's not meant to be inflammatory, I jujt don't see how anyone can "be responsible" for their car (assuming that means compensate for the damage it causes) when most of the damage is way beyond your control.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My two cats have less of a carbon footprint than one environmentalist, so I know which I would get rid of first.

      *glares at the environmentalist*
      • 5 Years Ago
      Green is the new RED!!! When are the masses going to wake up? Global Warming, Climate Change is a huge scam. If it's not a scam can somebody please tell me how taxing everything an industrial society does, i.e. transportation, manufacturing, electricity, etc. is going to "solve it"? It's a politicians dream, tax something you can't possibly measure to fix something that doesn't exist. Don't you lemmings see that buying into this gives a huge amount of freedom up? For example who decides what temp your house needs to be? Odumbo? Wake Up!!!!!!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess that environmentalists will soon promote and provide suicide kits to eliminate your carbon footprint by eliminating you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        As long as they use them first to demonstrate their use to the rest of us. But just like the diabetic leader of PETA who takes insulin derived from animals they'll give some BS excuse about them needing to be around to educate and lead others.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's called malthusianism, check it out. It's about 200 year old.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's made of people!!!......NO! Kitties!!!!!!!........NO! doggies!!!!!!.....ah, screw it. It's just sh@t from the activists above.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I once had a college professor who said you could prove anything with a study.

      This ridiculous claim is proof.

      Just one thing I'm sure they didn't account for is that most meat (and everything else) going into pet food is not human grade, it's considered waste, and that should be considered in calculating the actual carbon footprint.

      • 5 Years Ago
      It's just a scientific study people, this isn't a pair of Kiwi's trying to take over the world by communism and forced secret government agenda's - they find cats and dogs contribute to a carbon footprint and published their findings. There are thousands of scientific papers published every day. How dare they conduct an independent scientific study! Heresay! Communism! Oh wait...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just like we have Islamic or Christian fundamentalists, we now have green fundamentalists.
      • 5 Years Ago
      anyone who decides whether or not to get a pet based on this should be shot in the face
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Nathan

        ROFL...no, i just love puppies. I wouldn't matter if buying a dog meant a pod of dotphins would die...I'd still have my 3 dogs. I can't stand people who are so eco-concience that they let it rule their life...and to let it rule your life to that point, to me, is like having an abortion because of the kid's carbon footprint. (not that im pro or anti abortion...indeed i dont care...but that would be a stupid reason to have one)
        • 5 Years Ago
        You sound like a positively pleasant individual. Shot in the face? Whatever happened to live and let live? Didn't sound like anyone was trying to impose their values on you.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe I should just feed my cat some Soylent Chow.
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