Should we not replace our cat when they pass away in the interests of the environment?

An environmental auditor, Donnachadh McCarthy, states that in order to protect the planet from global warming we should consider not replacing our cat or dog when they pass away because of their carbon footprint. He also states that a lot of companion animals live rather poor lives because, for example, dogs are left at home all day. The same goes for cats by the way. And he mentions parrots which are kept in cages with 15 minutes contact daily. This is highly unsuited to a social animal.

The interview is interesting so I’d recommend it:

Note: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.


He debated this point on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. He was almost shouted down. The presenters strongly objected to his suggestion. The argument is that people love their pets and gain a lot of benefit from them. The presenters didn’t make the point strong enough that people have a much higher carbon footprint than pets. The argument there is that if people want to do something about reducing their carbon footprint, they should look to themselves and their behaviour first, such as divesting themselves of their car or don’t fly to business meetings et cetera.

Donnachadh McCarthy
Donnachadh McCarthy. Screenshot from video on this page.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

But Donnachadh McCarthy has a point. A study in 2017, in the USA, estimated that the 160 million domestic cats and dogs in that country were responsible for between 25-30% of the environmental impact of meat consumed in the USA. They produce about 30% of the poop that Americans egest (excrete as waste matter) which, it is said, leads to 64 million tonnes of methane and nitrous oxide greenhouse gases. This is equivalent to the emissions of 30 million petrol or diesel vehicles. Although, it’s probably agreed that cats have a smaller carbon footprint than most dogs.

Research published on May 22, 2019 entitled The Ecological Paw Print of Companion Dogs and Cats concluded that the “negative environmental impacts of food consumption by companion animals are expected to grow worldwide in the near future”. Animal products have a greater environmental impact than plant-based products.

We have to add-in the mining of clay litter substrate and the enormous quantity of waste combined with cat litter that is thrown into landfill annually. These obviously damage the environment. Plus, there is always the predation of cats on wildlife.

The reaction of the ITV News presenters was very emotional. Donnachadh McCarthy was not suggesting that people get rid of their pets. He was simply stating that they should not replace their pet when they pass away. And he regards pet ownership as selfish. He also regards global warming and the catastrophe that this will bring in the future (and today) as so important that people should take quite dramatic steps to stop it happening. He’s basically saying that people should make big sacrifices immediately in order to protect the world for the future and the generations to come.

The problem, however, is that, in general, people do not sufficiently feel the negative impact of climate change yet. It is a human trait that they have to see and feel something before they act upon it. Although, there have been some extreme weather conditions recently across the globe, and the scientists almost universally agreed that global warming is genuine, there are still a lot of laypeople (unqualified citizens) sceptics. Because people are inherently selfish, they will do as they please for as long as they can. They will not take up the offer of not replacing their pets until the effects of global warming are felt more severely. And they’ll probably give up their car and air travel, and do other things such as install a heat pump, before they give up the idea of no longer living with a companion animal. The idea is premature.

However, the time may come when they have to listen to more seriously to Donnachadh McCarthy’s suggestion. In the meantime, people can do a lot more themselves to reduce their carbon footprint. I would say that his suggestion may come about in the future after many other avenues have been pursued to reduce humankind’s carbon footprint.

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