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With many people doing their best to combat global warming and reduce environmental impact, it is worth an investigation into the effects that pets have on the environment. A new study published by UCLA geography professor Greg Okin claims that your pets may be significantly contributing to climate change.Vegetarianism and veganism have increased in frequency as a means of reducing the detrimental effects of meat production, but dogs and cats that consume meat may negate these efforts.
Premium pet food brands were found to contain more animal products than regular brands, and the rising popularity of premium brands means that meat consumption is increasing amongst pets.
Data from the study provided insight into the role of pets on the environment. According to the paper, cats and dogs constitute up to 30% of the environmental impact of meant consumption. Professor Okin’s calculations reveal the effects of meat consumption among domestic animals, in which the 163 million cats and dogs in the United States generate approximately 64 million tons of carbon dioxide per year- this is the equivalent of a year’s worth of carbon dioxide output from 13.6 million cars.
While the consumption meat products significantly impacts the environment, pet waste has also been discovered to be a major contributor to environmental stress. On their own, American pets produce 5.1 million tons of feces per year- as much as 90 million Americans, or the total trash production of the entire state of Massachusetts.
Just a quarter of the meat in pet food could feed 26 million Americans, which calls into question the dietary culture of Americans. Okin explained to the UCLA newsroom that
“Those of us in favor of eating or serving meat need to be able to have an informed conversation about our choices, and that includes the choices we make for our pets.” However, Okin recommends neither a vegetarian or vegan diet for pets (as these have proven to be deadly), but instead contends that “should consider all the impacts that pets have so we can have an honest conversation about them. Pets have many benefits, but also a huge environmental impact.”