It’s quite a catchy title, isn’t it? Pets versus jets. The Paw Post coined it. It encapsulates the discussion about whether keeping dogs is more damaging to the environment than the average private jet customer who apparently is responsible for 3.3 tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the environment per year. In contrast, the average dog creates 770 kg (0.85 tons) of carbon dioxide per year. The average domestic cat creates 310 kg (0.34 tons) of carbon dioxide per year. Both the statistics are from Mike Berners-Lee, a carbon footprint expert.
I’ve not checked these statistics. But let’s take it that they are accurate. If a person looks after three large dogs you might come to the conclusion that they produce 2.55 tons of carbon dioxide per year which is approaching the contribution to climate change by the average private jet customer.
So, what’s the point? I guess the point is that pet owners should be aware that they contribute to climate change perhaps more than they had thought. Of course, everything we do has a cost to the planet. Some things cost more particularly with the focus on global warming and emitting carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
The argument is that a person who walks in the park with their three dogs discussing climate change with their partner is on shaky ground if they complain about rich fat-cats unjustifiably contributing to global warming because of their use of private jets. They are being hypocritical it could be argued because they, too, are contributing to climate change to the same extent.
The Guardian newspaper gives us a clue as to where that 770 kg of carbon dioxide from one dog comes from. Apparently, the chief executive of Luxaviation, Patrick Hansen, mentioned the statistic when he was giving a speech at the Business of Luxury summit in Monaco in early 2023. He must have been making a comparison between one of his company’s customers producing 2.1 tons of carbon dioxide annually which as mentioned is the equivalent of about three dogs.
Reducing the pet footprint
This is where the discussion turns to suggestions about reducing the carbon footprint of your companion dog or cat.
It is a difficult topic: discussing how pets contribute to global warming because we love our pets. We don’t want to think about how they can damage the planet but we can do things to help.
Dr. Elise Anderson, a project lead with Vets for Climate Action, in speaking to The Guardian newspaper said: “Just about everything we do in life has an environmental footprint so we need to be conscious of the impact pet ownership can have. [It] will vary depending on the type and number of pets people have [but] it’s certainly something we need to take into consideration.”
Size and numbers
Size matters in this instance; the bigger the dog the bigger the carbon footprint. That’s because they eat more and if they eat high quality food with premium livestock meats rather than waste products from the farming industry, they will be contributing more to climate change.
Having a large dog is like having a large car in terms of contribution to damaging the planet. Unless the car is an EV but then most EVs are enormous and they damage the roads!
Anderson suggests that people should adopt a small dog. She said that she made a “deliberate choice to choose a pet that had a low carbon footprint.”
Food and feeding
She adopted a budgerigar called Sunny 😊. In looking after a cat or dog, the biggest contribution towards global warming is the food that they eat. UCLA geography professor, Gregory Okin, discovered in 2017 that dogs and cats were responsible for up to 30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in America.
If there was an imaginary country of only cats and dogs from America, and no humans, they would rank fifth in global meat consumption behind only China, America, Brazil and Russia.
One way dog owners can help is to not overfeed their dogs. I mention this because there is a well-known dog and cat obesity epidemic in the West particularly the UK and America.
Vegan and vegetarian
A lot of food is being eaten by dogs that shouldn’t be. As dogs are omnivores, they can enjoy a couple or three vegetarian or vegan meals weekly. This would help to cut back on their carbon footprint as meat production is damaging to the planet as cows emit methane and farmers in Brazil and burning the Amazon jungle to make room for beef farming.
You can even buy a vegan cat food nowadays which might surprise some people. Cat owners might think that a vegan cat diet is entirely impossible but it’s not because the right nutrients and constituents are added in. It’s just that the protein is plant protein rather than animal protein and it is almost as good.
Nowadays you can buy insect-based pet foods which can be a great substitute for meat-based foods. This can help to reduce the meat intake of cats and dogs which once again helps minimise carbon footprint.
Dealing with waste food is important too. Rather than just chucking it into landfill it might be possible to recycle it by composting. Even throwing away and use cat or dog food should be done in a biodegradable compostable bag.
Nowadays I put out waste cat food for the foxes and they eat it happily and quickly. The added benefit here is that you are helping wildlife, reducing the fiddle and fuss of getting rid of waste cat food and helping the environment.
It comes down to spending wisely and adopting wisely. I guess it comes down to being aware of pets’ carbon footprint and building that thought into cat and dog caregiving.
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