“Pets make us happier and healthier. Unfortunately, they also have a huge environmental impact. We can reduce this by adopting instead of buying and by thinking carefully about our pets’ environmental pawprints.” – Dr Natalie Cooper, Researcher & Scientist
A recent study calculated that an area twice the size of the UK is used to produce food for cats and dogs worldwide (dry food only).
The Edinburgh University-led project is the first to assess the global environmental impact of pet food production.
Analysis of the carbon footprint of pet food production also revealed that the industry emits more greenhouse gases each year than a small country like the Philippines.
Annual greenhouse gas emissions were found to be 106 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. A country producing the same levels would be the world’s sixtieth highest emitter, researchers said.
Dr Peter Alexander, who led the study, said: “Even accounting for the use of by-products in pet foods, the feeding of companion animals plays a role in environmental change.”
But why does adopting rather than buying from a breeder make a difference to the environmental impact of pet food?
Whilst 6.3 million cats and dogs enter U.S. animal shelters every year, and with around 70 million more stray animals in the US at any one time, tens of millions of companion animals continue to be born under breeders every year.
Each animal needs to be fed, often with a meat-based diet, which is incredibly resource intensive and environmentally damaging. Breeders are bringing into the world tens of millions more mouths to feed every year whilst millions are already sat waiting in shelters. Certain animals have such a small chance of adoption that they’d spend much of their life in a cage, never knowing what having a family is like. Only 1/10 dogs will find a permanent home.
There are so many animals waiting in shelters, that there are often not even enough resources to feed them. Every year, almost a million shelter animals are euthanized in the US. As many as 70% of cats in shelters are euthanized. Animal shelter stats show that 80% of these cats are healthy and treatable.
By adopting you will be reducing the footprint and resources needed for pet food as a whole, by rescuing an animal that is already waiting for a home, rather than paying for a breeder to bring another hungry mouth that needs to be fed into the world. Moreover, you will be rescuing an animal that may otherwise be euthanized, never know what it’s like to have a family or die on the streets.
If you are thinking of buying from a breeder because you want a particular breed, you should still consider adopting. There are so many animals in shelters, the chances are high you will find the breed you are looking for or an animal with similar genetic traits and some shelters will put you on a wait list for that breed if they don’t already have it.
Furthermore, always be sure to spay and neuter your animals. Cats and dogs can have dozens of offspring in their lifetimes in very short periods of time and their offspring can each have dozens more and so on. By spaying and neutering just one male cat and one female cat, 2,000 unwanted births can be prevented in just 4 years and more than 2,000,000 in 8 years!!!
To go one step further, dogs can be very healthy on a vegan diet which will slash their carbon pawprint drastically, but as cats are obligate carnivores, the solution isn’t as simple.
Adopt don't shop; it might just save the planet!
Great places to adopt pets from in Thailand:
Photo: Kirsty Smith from the Adoptable Puppy Cafe, rescuing another puppy!