New Environmental Concern: Our Meat-Eating Cats and Dogs
Research finds cats, dogs produce 64M tons of CO2 by eating meat
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2017 1:58 PM CDT
By eating meat, American dogs and cats are responsible for the production of 64 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.   (Getty Images/humonia)

(Newser) – A UCLA professor isn't saying anyone who cares about the environment should get rid of their beloved pet dog and/or cat. But he's not not saying that either. It's widely accepted that eating meat is bad for the environment for a number of reasons, and it turns out our pets eat a whole lot of meat—in fact a country comprised only of the US' cats and dogs would place fifth in global meat consumption, according to a press release. Professor Gregory Okin was interested in the environmental impacts of our pets and—in a paper published Wednesday in PLOS One—calculates that American cats and dogs create about 64 million tons of carbon dioxide per year due to eating meat. That's equivalent to the yearly output of 13.6 million cars. "The numbers are surprisingly large," he tells the Sacramento Bee.

All told, cats and dogs account for 25% to 30% of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the US. Okin says that's "huge." And yet, he's "not saying people should go out and kill their animals or feed them something that isn’t appropriate"—like an all-veggie diet. Okin does identify a number of possible ways to lessen the problem: people could transition to vegetarian pets, such as hamsters, birds, and chickens (which have the added benefit of providing protein for their owners); the pet food industry could get more sustainable and find alternate sources of protein; and, according to the Santa Monica Mirror, pet owners can make sure they're not over-feeding their dogs and cats. (These states have the fattest cats and dogs.)

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