How your pet is killing the planet

A new book -- "Time to Eat the Dog" -- claims golden retrievers have the same carbon footprint as SUVs

Published October 26, 2009 2:13PM (EDT)

As provocative titles go, "Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living," is a doozy, guaranteed to ensure outrage and oodles of provocative blog post headlines. As summarized in the Telegraph, New Zealand-based authors Robert and Brenda Vale have calculated the carbon footprint of pet ownership and arrived at some disturbing conclusions.

A medium-sized dog has the same impact as a Toyota Land Cruiser driven 6,000 miles a year, while a cat is equivalent to a Volkswagen Golf....

[The authors] base their findings on the amount of land needed to grow food for pets ranging from budgerigars to cats and dogs.

They say an average Collie eats 164kg of meat and 95kg of cereals a year, giving it a high impact on the planet.

From the Telegraph story alone, I can't evaluate the methodology the authors used in coming up with their figures. There is a lot of room for imaginative mathematics when comparing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming for food  with fossil fuel burning for transportation. But I can definitely offer a negative judgment on how quickly the Vales backed off their incendiary title.

"There are no recipes in the book. We're not actually saying it is time to eat the dog."

"We're just saying that we need to think about and know the (ecological) impact of some of the things we do and that we take for granted."

The title of the book is "Time to Eat the Dog" but they're "not actually saying it is time to eat the dog." This tells us more than we need to know about what it to takes to sell a book in 2009.

My advice: If your SUV and dog have similar carbon footprints, ditch the SUV and take your dog for a walk.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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