Pets have to go?, 13°

It is a topic that is near and dear to many people, but one that I find often ignored in conversations of sustainability and environmental responsibility.

Should Rover go?

The amount of natural resources used to feed, water, tend, and accomodate our domesticated pets is staggering. This combined with the toxic nature of cat litter, dog feces, and aquarium carbon filters makes me wonder if we shouldn't start curbing our companion habits.

When looking at the balance sheet, aren't pets really a luxury item that should fall into the jet-ski and hot tub sector of environmental priorities?

13 replies

Charles M. 110°

Like most things... it depends.

If you live in an apartment and have to keep animals inside or in a small yard, then you might have a strong point.

If, like me, you live in the country then pets can serve a useful role and earn their keep. We have 6 cats which are all excellent at pest control: killing rats, mice and rabbits. We don't have any cat litter problems as the cats just use outside. They occasionally kill a few introduced birds, but seldom native birds.

Bought pet food does take some processing but is typically made from stuff that would otherwise be waste or used as input to fish farming etc.

Sure, most things we do have a downside, or potential downside. It is not about curbing our habits completely but about living withing the planet's recovery zone.

Written in July 2008

Wny are pets considered lesser beings than people? We have to get over this speciesism. We and Rover are the same thing but in different shapes.

Animals are equals on this planet. Why not get rid of all the kids? They use up all the resources, and won't make bitchy replies to blog post questions.

Pets are not a luxury item. They are family members. They are, as one writer put it, "the keepers of our souls".

More wasteful things that serve no purpose that should go should be some sporting events like car racing that use a lot of land and resources or things like that, IMHO (for what it's worth).

Great question, though!

Written in July 2008

"They use up all the resources, and won't make bitchy replies to blog post questions."

Actually, that should have been:

"Kids use up a lot of resources and then go on to make bitchy replies to blog post questions."

Written in July 2008

"I love cats and dogs, but think the responsible approach is to neuter all animals that are not working animals (i.e. seeing eye dogs, farm dogs and cats etc.), and maintain a small and highly regulated breeder population of non-native species for these purposes."

Wow. Well said (and not just 'cause I agree). Pets can come in all kinds of species, not just dogs and cats, but it does depend on where you live, especially if feral cats or dogs aren't native to your area to begin with.

For the record (or CD) my pets are neutered and I'm hoping my resuced goldfish will never figure out how to breed. :-0

Written in July 2008

Mmm...still, it would be sad not to enjoy a new puppy!

Written in July 2008

Charles M. 110°

"Mmm...still, it would be sad not to enjoy a new puppy!" Stewed or fried? Yum :-).

With regards to neutering: Yes, neuter all pets. Working dogs should be neutered too (unless they are specifically breeding animals). Nothing worse than a seeing eye dog or sheep dog taking off after a bitch on heat!

Seriously though, one of the principles of permaculture is that everything should serve multiple purposes, and pets can too.
For example:
A cat can be a pet as well as pest control.
A dog can be a pet as well as security. Long haired ones can provide "wool".
A sheep can be a pet, weed control, lawn mowing, milk and wool source.
A hen can be a pet as well as an egg source, bug killer weed control and compost processor.

If they're earning their keep that takes them off the luxury item column in Andrew's balance sheet.

Written in July 2008

2 people think this is a cool reply

Hey Rena. Another balanced and eloquent post from you.

Should rover go? I will have to disagree with the consensus and say no. No to petocide, and no to neutering. Putting aside my own personal bias (like dogs, hate cats, and I just don't get pet fish), I would like to see the market sort out this problem. All items necessary for running a pet should be priced according to their real environmental impact, and if this can't be established, then remove the product from the market.

Would you want a cat in an apartment if you had to pay the price of litter including the cost of making the entire supply chain renewable and carbon neutral? Or worse, without litter at all?

Now I think about it, you could probably extrapolate this argument to most walks of life... umm... including the internet.

Written in July 2008

Harald K. 35°

I think pets should be seen as a luxury, but not necessarily a wasteful one. Yes, when you add up all we use to feed them and care for them, it seems a lot, but we shouldn't just look at the big bad sum. We should look at the "return on investment" of whatever we want out of Rover.

For some people, the value of a companion may be a sensible use of their "environmental allotment", their fair share of the earth's resources. But probably not for most of us, or even most people who keep pets today. I do think it is a concern that should be taken into account for everyone who gets a pet.

Written in August 2008

The lasting emotional benefits that our pets bring us outweigh the slight increase in carbon footprint they represent so let's at least make our pets the last thing we give-up!

Written in August 2008

Charles M. 110°

Jeff F:
Every conversion step has waste in it.

Supposing you started out with grain and grass, fed that to a cow/chicken/pig, then fed the cow/chicken/pig to your dog, then ate the dog, you'd have something like this:

1000 food units of grass/grain make
20 food units of cow,50 of pig or 100 of chicken, (chicken and pig are more productive than beef) which make
1,2.5 or 5 food units of dog.

You'd be better off having a pet chicken, pig or cow.

Best of all would be having some pet grass and eating that!

Written in August 2008

River cottage rocks. watched every episode. loved every minute. Hugh is a very endearing character.

Written in August 2008

Featured Companies & Orgs 

Pledge to do these related actions

Choose biodegradable products and packaging, 248°

Have you checked if what you're using or what you're buying is available as a ...

The 100-Mile Diet, 42°

To help sustain our local communities, support local economies, support local farming and eating of ...

Synthetic Oils, 11°

With advanced SYNTHETIC LUBRICANTS in your car's engine AND transmission you will improve its fuel-efficiency ...

Follow these related projects

Queen Charlotte Wilderness Park

Marlborough, New Zealand