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Posted by on Jan 9, 2010 in Science & Technology | 8 comments

Must You Sacrifice Your Dog to Sustainability?

The question is apparently raised by a new book titled Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living which claims that “the carbon pawprint of a pet dog is more than double that of a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle.” Eating Liberally, in a wonderfully titled post asking Is Fido the New Hummer, contacted Dr. Marion Nestle, NYU professor of nutrition and author of Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine and Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat to get the down low.

It turns out that Nestle has yet to read the book, “We ordered this book through Amazon in the U.K. but it is taking its own sweet time getting here.” So to answer she relies on the October 24 New Scientist, which reviewed the book and ran an editorial that begins, “If you really want to make a sacrifice to sustainability, consider ditching your pet – its ecological footprint will shock you.” Says Nestle:

Most dogs don’t eat the same meat humans do. They eat meat by-products—the parts of food animals that we wouldn’t dream of eating. PetFoodPolitics.pngThese are organs, intestines, scraps, cuttings, and other disgusting-to-humans animal parts.

We think pet food performs a huge public service. If pets didn’t eat all that stuff, we would have to find a means of getting rid of it: landfills, burning, fertilizer, or converting it to fuel, all of which have serious environmental consequences. If dogs and cats ate the same food we do, we estimate that just on the basis of calories, the 172 million dogs and cats in American would consume as much food as 42 million people.

But they don’t. They eat the by-products of human food production. If we want to do something to help reverse climate change, we should be worrying much more about the amount of meat that we ourselves are eating–and the amount of cereals we are growing to feed food animals–than blaming house pets for a problem that we created.

For the quantitative details of Nestle’s argument, I encourage you to CLICK THROUGH.

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