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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: The Nanny State and the Carbon Footprint of Pets

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Nanny State and the Carbon Footprint of Pets

I like pets.  Even when I have had a bad day, my dogs enthusiastically welcome me at the door.  Their needs are relatively small.  The National Center for Infectious Disease claims that the bond that you form with your pet may have medical benefits such as decreasing your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and levels of loneliness.  The center also writes that pets can increase opportunities for exercise and socialization.   

(HT Drudge Report)  Isabelle Toussaint and Jurgen Hecker (Yahoo!News) inform us in, "Polluting pets: the devastating impact of man's best friend," that our pets have a huge carbon paw print.
PARIS (AFP) – Man's best friend could be one of the environment's worst enemies, according to a new study which says the carbon pawprint of a pet dog is more than double that of a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle.

But the revelation in the book "Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living" by New Zealanders Robert and Brenda Vale has angered pet owners who feel they are being singled out as troublemakers...
Pet owners should lighten up, after all, hard core environmentalists don't like people either (see, "When Carbon Limits Are Not Enough," or "A Nanny State That Doesn't Like Children).  Toussaint and Hecker further describe the authors of the book and the carbon footprint of a medium sized dog.
The Vales, specialists in sustainable living at Victoria University of Wellington, analysed popular brands of pet food and calculated that a medium-sized dog eats around 164 kilos (360 pounds) of meat and 95 kilos of cereal a year.

Combine the land required to generate its food and a "medium" sized dog has an annual footprint of 0.84 hectares (2.07 acres) -- around twice the 0.41 hectares required by a 4x4 driving 10,000 kilometres (6,200 miles) a year, including energy to build the car.

To confirm the results, the New Scientist magazine asked John Barrett at the Stockholm Environment Institute in York, Britain, to calculate eco-pawprints based on his own data. The results were essentially the same.

"Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance, mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat," Barrett said.

Other animals aren't much better for the environment, the Vales say.
I'm sorry but I won't do my dogs in to stop your polar bears from drowning.  If man is altering the climate in a catastrophic way through carbon emissions, and that is a big if (see "Study shows CFCs, cosmic rays major culprits for global warming," On Watts Up With That," for a description of a non-carbon based explanation for man-made global warming.  There are others.) there must be a better way to resolve the problem than upending the world economy and our pet rich lifestyles (see "Nathan Myhrvold's Anti Global Warming Scheme," for one.).


  1. I agree with you as far as other solutions to cut emissions and the carbon footprint other than our pets. When they do these calculations and observations do they consider and research how it is proven that animal companionship help sick get better. Even when the person is terminally ill it is also proven that it helps make the person feel mentally better even though they know they are still very sick.

  2. The research conducted by Isabelle Toussaint and Jurgen Hecker may have brought up an unwanted reality that pet owners are unlikely to accept. The cost of owning a pet does cost our environment. However, there are many other ways we could lessen man-made environmental damage. Instead of sacrificing our furry companions we could reduce their carbon pawprints by figuring out how to create a sustainable way to make their food. The tradeoff between the environmental damage caused by pets and their medicinal benefits is far too great. We don't necessarily need to eliminate the luxury of pets just yet because even if they use up resources like no tomorrow, they more than make up for it with the companionship and loyalty they give to humans.
    -Santiago Vallejo-Gutierrez, University High School