Have you heard? Pets are worse for the environment than driving a gas-sucking SUV. This bit of wisdom is courtesy of the Stockholm Environment Institute. Why anyone is wasting time and money studying the carbon footprint of Fido is somewhat lost on me, but, hey, without someone to demonize, the environmental movement gets frozen in its tracks. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the environment, and I think we really should go after the heavy polluters, but pets? At what point do we stop listening to these (theoretically) well-meaning folks?
Much of this criticism of pets stems from the food we use to feed them. The carbon footprint they refer to comes from the energy used to grow and produce pet food, most notably the meat portions of it. Now, they may have a point, strictly speaking, but only if you buy into the whole carbon footprint line to begin with. Otherwise, it’s an absurd and deeply flawed argument. Unlike inventing the internet, our less-than-esteemed former Vice President Al Gore is actually responsible for raising awareness to the carbon footprint concept, most notably through his scare-tactics, pseudo-documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Mr. Gore has reaped the rewards of his efforts, even if the planet hasn’t, through selling carbon credits to other well-meaning suckers…er, environmentally conscious people looking to offset their manufactured guilt, er…impact on our planet. He’s made bunches of money through this scam…er, awareness-raising exercise that brings new meaning to “going green,” as in greenbacks in his pocket. But that’s a racket for another day.
Anyway, the carbon footprint craze has led to all sorts of questionable plans and procedures, most notably the threat of legislation designed to reduce all of our footprints. I’m sure you’ve heard all about the environmental summit in Copenhagen a week or so ago, designed to rein in carbon emissions by anywhere from 50 to 80 %. There didn’t seem to be much consideration to the fact that this effort would decimate whatever’s left of our economy with massively spiking energy costs, but why quibble about little things like continuing to have a functioning society that is even capable of dealing with carbon emissions when the planet’s at stake, at least according to Mr. Gore and a significant portion of the scientific community. You know, the same folks who recently were discovered hiding evidence and stifling debate that might contradict their theories on global warming? I’m not a global warming denialist by any means, I’m absolutely convinced that the planet is, in fact, warming. I’m also convinced that it’s part of a natural cycle and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it, carbon footprints or otherwise, nor should we. I happen to believe that we might be just a tad bit arrogant in believing that 150 or so years of burning fossil fuels is totally decimating our planet’s several billion year old ecosystem. But, hey, I’m not a scientist. Anyway, not surprisingly, the summit descended into a giant political argument where certain countries tried to use emission control regulations to gain an economic advantage on certain other countries. Needless to say, they was no legally-binding agreement, only a face-saving “Copenhagen Accord” not worth the paper it’s printed on–or the carbon footprint necessary to make that paper–nor were they even close to one, and that may be the best thing that could happen to us all. But back to my original point.
Pets are bad for the environment. Apparently, a medium sized dog is responsible for more pollution than driving 12,000 miles in an extravagant SUV. Uh-huh. Right. And the dog kennel down the street pollutes more than the worst, most vile coal-burning factory on the planet, then. That’s reasonable. Absolutely. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it’ll probably be easier to tax every dog-owner on the planet for their carbon footprints than it will be to actually rein in real, genuine polluting multi-national corporations, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with any of this. I think it’s interesting that the reporters who penned this piece actually treated this like these guys didn’t just pull this info out of their nether-areas. In their defense, I did feed my dog some chili a couple weeks back, and there was most definitely some polluting gaseous emissions for the following day or so, but other than that, I’m not buying this. Now I’m sure they have all the studies and statistics money can buy to support their claims, but I can quote you chapter and verse on the value (or lack thereof) of scientific studies. The article is even populated with quotes from people treating this like it is actual fact, and that the polluting quotient of house pets is a genuine concern rather than a trumped up oddity of carbon footprint statistics designed to sell books. (Yes, there is a book involved. It’s called “Time to Eat The Dog.” That title just lends all the credibility in the world doesn’t it?)
One woman says, “Our animals give us so much that I don’t feel like a polluter at all.” That’s good, because you’re not a polluter. A representative of a French animal rights group said, “I should be allowed to say that I walk instead of using my car and that I don’t eat meat, so why shouldn’t I be allowed to have a little cat to alleviate my loneliness?” Well, as far as I know, you are allowed. I have yet to see a ban on pets for environmental reasons. And how about that guilt trip! This woman, an animal rights worker, felt the need to justify owning a cat like she was dumping raw sewage in the ocean or something. Of course, the authors of this book claim that pets do far more damage than simply having a large carbon footprint. According to them, pets also, “decimate wildlife, spread disease and pollute waterways.” Big news here that dogs and cats use the bathroom outside. Pretty sure wildlife does that, too. After all, doesn’t a bear poop in the woods? Also, here’s some more Earth-shattering information: cats actually hunt and kill other animals. Who would have thought? And, again, doesn’t wildlife survive by hunting and killing other animals? I mean, I don’t recall seeing any raccoons or owls in the vegetable aisle at the grocery store recently. And I work in a vet clinic. I can say, in no uncertain terms, that the vast majority of communicable diseases house pets come in with, they likely contracted from wildlife, not the other way around.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m sure there are environmental impacts from pets, just as everything that walks, crawls and breathes has an environmental impact in some way. But when you get to the point where we’re actually suggesting that pets are responsible for more pollution than the worst, least fuel efficient vehicles on the road, maybe we need to take a step back and gain some perspective. That being said, I do think there is one key area that is a potential source of global warming that we haven’t properly examined yet. I believe we need to take a hard look at all of the hot air coming from environmentalists the world-over and find a way to determine what kind of footprint they’re leaving on all of our backsides.