Time to Eat the Dog

October 23, 2009 at 3:10 am 8 comments


New Zealand’s Dominion Post published an ‘interesting’ opinion piece today on the supposedly dire environmental impacts posed by pet keeping.

Victoria University professors Brenda and Robert Vale, architects who specialise in sustainable living, say pet owners should swap cats and dogs for creatures they can eat, such as chickens or rabbits, in their provocative new book Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living.

The couple have assessed the carbon emissions created by popular pets, taking into account the ingredients of pet food and the land needed to create them.

“If you have a German shepherd or similar-sized dog, for example, its impact every year is exactly the same as driving a large car around,” Brenda Vale said.

“A lot of people worry about having SUVs but they don’t worry about having Alsatians and what we are saying is, well, maybe you should be because the environmental impact … is comparable.”

Do you suppose that the Vales took into account the fact that most of the “meat” that goes into commercial dog food is byproducts that might otherwise go to waste?  Did they also take into account the fact that most pet owners (present company included) don’t buy a new set of dog beds, crates, bowls, leashes and kennels every time they get a new dog.

What next, a book on the merits of cannibalizing children?

It looks to me like these folks took a page from PeTA’s playbook, using shock tactics to promote themselves.  This is one dog-related book I won’t be buying.  In fact, I’m not even going to post a link to it.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mongo  |  October 23, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    How weird.
    Using the GSD as an example is an interesting choice….
    Its NOT a truly large breed, and is extremely multifaceted as a worker (herding/guarding) for small homesteads.
    As a breed, my experience has been the GSD is rarely kept as just a “companion” and nearly always expected to perform some function outside pleasant companionship (unlike Shih tzus or most Saint Bernards, for example).
    Its that aspect that also makes me wonder about a PETA involvement- why else choose the one breed most likely to be performing a task for humans?

    Truly sustainable living does not include medium GSD sized dogs??
    So all those indiginous peoples who have kept dogs for the past thousands of years were needlessly wasting resources in their highly sustainable societies…. weird.

  • 2. John McClintcck  |  November 2, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    I have always wondered about such people like Brenda and Robert Vale. Being architects and writing about sustainable living, I wonder how large their CO2 foot print is? Most likely quite a few shoe sizes bigger than mine or most folks. I might be wrong in my judgement, because I know next to nothing about them, but you can bet I will do some research. People who like in glass houses should not through stones, especially at the ones who have big dogs.

    I am an advocate for alternative energies, but I’m not a environmentalist, I do not believe the rubbish put out by the IPCC and Al Gore.

    It is true that we do have climate change, however, we have had global cooling over the past 10 years while all the while CO2 is rising. May be the IPCC needs to take another look at the science. Politicians can not stop earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, climate change is the same.

    It you want to take a look at some good science on climate change, Professor Robert Carter, environmental scientist from James Cook University.

  • 3. dorf  |  November 9, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    What I find questinable about this is how they measure eco-footprint. Apparently so dogs and cars can be compared their impact is measured simplistically in how much energy they consume, then the amount of land required to produce that energy is compared and the SUV comes out better.

    The glaring contradiction is dog food is largely produced from land while a car is produced from mines, factories and requires significant waste disposal and infrastructure.

    If this is hw eco-footprint is usually measured I’m not at all convinced.

    (I do agree a pet is a luxury item that could possibly be dispensed with in an ecological crisis, but am very suspicoius of the methodology and possibly even motives behind this research)

  • 4. Gina Spadafori  |  November 18, 2009 at 6:51 am

    I doubt they consider meat waste since I’m pretty willing to bet they’re vegans.

    As for not believing in climate change, the science is incontrovertible. When you single out ONE person “who’s doing good work” what that translates to is that you’ve found someone who confirms what you have decided is true. Kinda like creationist/intelligent design true believers pointing to an obscure biology prof somewhere as their “doing good work” guy.

  • 5. SmartDogs  |  November 18, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Even though I am very much pro-environment and I want to see us use less water, petroleum products and mining products and put less waste in the water, air and ground — I have to disagree with you that “the science is incontrovertible”.

    I spent about three decades studying and working in environmental science including a ABd in environmental chemistry, and based on those years of experience I don’t believe that we can accurately say that the science describing the processes affecting groundwater chemistry at a single ten-acre site is “incontrovertible”. I’m not picking on you Gina, but this is one place where pro-environment activists annoy the living crap out of me.

    The science of the environment is a gorgeously and often annoyingly confusing interdisciplinary mix of just about every branch of science you can shake an sustainably correct deadfall stick at. Meteorology, geology, chemistry, hydrology, biology, astronomy, physics and more. To add to the confusion, we humans have a distressing tendency to look at systems as existing in a stepwise series of equilibrium states when in reality the universe flows in a constant, beautiful, impossibly complex state of flux.

    World climate will change no matter what we do. It is the nature of climates to change and of humans to fear change.

    IME What we need to do is to quick pissing, moaning, arguing and blaming each other for who did what to who (another annoying human tendency) and start liviing our lives in ways that are mindful of our impacts.

    Quick initiation of sweeping carbon taxes will just force manufacturing into countries that aren’t affected by the increased fuel costs – typically the same countries that have lax or nonexistent environmental and safety laws – and just shift pollution to another part of the globe. We need instead to look for ways to reduce gobal population, to encourage people to buy less; to encourage manufacture of handmade items; to increase global shipping costs; to increase incentives for alternate energy; and to provide trade and economic incentives for developing countries to institute protective environmental and worker safety laws. But these things would take time to institute – so they don’t make for good press – and politicians aren’t interested in getting them done.

    Even after we make good, globally sustainable changes to the way we live we need to be ready for Mother Earth to – eventually – decide the climate is going to change anyway. Because no matter what we do it will always change, just as it has done since the dawn of time.

  • 6. Gina Spadafori  |  November 19, 2009 at 12:28 am

    I’m actually not in favor of cap-and-trade for the reasons you have articulated. But I believe we are not “cycling” — we are screwed.

    Such is my cheery take on it. We will kill our kind off the planet in the next few centuries, and the planet will eventually adjust as if we were never, ever here. Life goes on. Just not ours.

    In the meantime, I do my part. But my part does not including serving retriever roast for Sunday dinner. And it never will.

  • 7. SmartDogs  |  November 19, 2009 at 12:53 am

    I completely agree with your take on it – but, being a cynical misanthrope, find the long-term prospect to be interesting in an abstract, academic kind of way rather than distressing. It’s fascinating to think that we might be our own Chicxulub meteor.

    And… I’d starve to death before eating my dogs, or anyone else’s!!!

  • 8. Michael Hobbs  |  June 11, 2013 at 10:18 am

    This sounds a bit absurd to be true. I don’t know what methods they used to measure carbon footprints but comparing it to that of a car seems like a stretch. I’d like to see their methodology before believing this.

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