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...
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 (authors) say.
Cats have an eco-footprint of about 0.15 hectares, slightly less than driving a Volkswagen Golf for a year, while two hamsters equates to a plasma television and even the humble goldfish burns energy equivalent to two mobile telephones...
And pets' environmental impact is not limited to their carbon footprint, as cats and dogs devastate wildlife, spread disease and pollute waterways, the Vales say...
But the best way of compensating for that paw or clawprint is to make sure your animal is dual purpose, the Vales urge. Get a hen, which offsets its impact by laying edible eggs, or a rabbit, prepared to make the ultimate environmental sacrifice by ending up on the dinner table.
"Rabbits are good, provided you eat them," said Robert Vale.
Eat your pets. It's good for you, it's good for the pet, it's good for the Earth.
Ask some people about their particular brand of environmentalism, they'll tell you about recycling, taking mass transit, and replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescents or LEDs. None of those is necessarily bad, but the people who want to force them on everyone else probably already do these things and hence wouldn't be giving up very much. Ask them to do without a pet, though....
Sylvie Comont, proud owner of seven cats and two dogs -- the environmental equivalent of a small fleet of cars -- says defiantly, "Our animals give us so much that I don't feel like a polluter at all.
"I think the love we have for our animals and what they contribute to our lives outweighs the environmental considerations.
"I don't want a life without animals," she told AFP.
There are too many people to laugh at in this one little story.
Who comes across worse: the woman who loves her animals and because of that decides, against the evidence, that she's not a polluter, or the people who published this study and who apparently think they're going to win converts to the environmentalist cause by telling people to eat their pets?
(Here's another link, as the first will invariably go bad.)