A Dog’s Paw: Climate’s Crusade

June 16, 2011

The very most-wonderful dog I ever had was a Springer Spaniel (very similar to the one shown at left) named Bogie, one sweet animal given to me as a puppy.
He was a pure breed, his parents two upstanding Springers themselves, and Bogie was a vital part of our family for more than a dozen years.
Alas, he died in the mid-1990s, the first casualty and one of two fatalities (another dog) resulting from a divorce (more than just acrimony came out of that damn thing).

Although the Bogus (as we sometimes called him) was great, apparently he and others of his species were more of an ecological problem for the earth than most humans — you gotta be dog-shittin’ me!

(Illustration found here).

Of course, we already know about them cows: Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.
But, sweet, tender doggies?

Bovines aside and alas again, reportedly canines have an environmental footprint bigger than human beings in many of the world’s countries, creating a somewhat jaundiced eye toward the household pet.
From Transition Voice and a review of the book, “Time to Eat the Dog?: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living,” by New Zealand architects, Robert and Brenda Vale.
A few notes:

…the authors calculated that owning a medium-sized dog has the same ecological impact as driving 6,213 miles a year in a Land Cruiser.

According to the Vales’s assessments, modern, domesticated dogs consume about 361 pounds of meat and 209 pounds of cereals each per year, based on the land needed to grow pet food.
Meat consumption increases the ‘footprint’ of our furry friends.
Constructing and driving the aforementioned Land Cruiser creates a corresponding demand of 0.41 hectares of land, whereas a dog’s food alone consumes double that, at 0.84 hectares.

In a similar stroke and the UK’s The Guardian:

The New Scientist, in a recent editorial entitled “Cute, fluffy and horribly greedy,” largely agreed with the (Vales’) book’s findings that some pets, due to the food they eat, have a surprisingly high “ecological footprint” (a way of quantifying human demand on the planet’s ecosystems using a measure called “global hectares”).
“According to the authors . . . it takes 0.84 hectares [2.07 acres] of land to keep a medium-sized dog fed.
In contrast, running a 4.6-litre Toyota Land Cruiser, including the energy required to construct the thing and drive it 10,000km a year, requires 0.41 hectares.
Dogs are not the only environmental sinners.
The eco-footprint of a cat equates to that of a Volkswagen Golf.
If that’s troubling, there is an even more shocking comparison.
In 2004, the average citizen of Vietnam had an ecological footprint of 0.76 hectares.
For an Ethiopian, it was just 0.67 hectares.
In a world where scarce resources are already hogged by the rich, can we really justify keeping pets that take more than some people?”

But Harris (Professor Stephen Harris, based at the school of biological sciences at the University of Bristol) says dogs aren’t exactly guilt-free, given that an estimated 250,000 tonnes of dog faeces are deposited on our streets and in our parks each year:
“It is calculated that 100 tonnes of dog shit is left on Richmond Park in London each year alone.
This has a huge impact on the local ecology.
If you see aerial photographs of the area, you can see how yellow the grass is around the car park where all the dogs rush out of the owners’ cars to urinate.
Pets such as dogs and cats can have lots of these little impacts, which really do add up.
Ecologically, pets are very demanding and this is a lifestyle choice that is difficult to justify for most people.”
(In their book, the Vales make the observation that, in San Francisco, city officials say that dog faeces now account for 4 percent of the municipal waste sent to landfill each year — the same level as used nappies.)

Humans can’t win — we’re up to our arse in cute, cuddly animals and a planet becoming more wild and crazy by the day.

And to dear old Bogie, and his companion for more than a decade, Boot, a German Shepard and Rhodesian Ridgeback mix (Boot was put to sleep by the ex a couple of years after the Bogus), we can only say it was worth all that shit.

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