The headline reads: Save the Planet: Eat a Dog.

No, it’s not an anti Filipino satire about poor rural people in the provinces who eat dogs. It’s actually a post in a New Zealand paper that reports on the “carbon footprint” of Fido, Kitty and other meat eating pets.

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.

Apparently, these “scientists” calculated the amount of meat eaten by the average middle sized dog, and finds that it’s “carbon equivalent” is twice that of a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Kitty, on the other hand, has a carbon footprint about the same as a VW Golf, and Rex the hamster harms the planet as much as half of a Plasma TV.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, first of all, it assumes that chickens and rabbits are equivalent pets.

Yet to those of us who keep dogs for safety, one doubts that a chicken or two–or even a half dozen prize-winning Filipino fighting cocks– will scare away a burglar as well as George, the killer Lab, shown here.
Nor will rabbits catch mice as well as Precious, our gender confused tomcat (who nurses his late sister’s half grown kittens in between hunting for girlfriends).

Here in the Philippines, only the growing middle class have dogs and cats as pets: When Lolo and I moved here, the staff was amazed at how our dogs responded to us when we petted and talked to them. But that doesn’t mean that all our dogs are “pets”, and even in the US, a cat or a dog not only provides companionship but a certain amount of protection for their owners.

On the other hand, there is no way that we feed our dogs the “164 kilograms of meat and 95kg of cereals every year”.  They eat rice and leftovers, which we mix with one-third dry dog food.

But even if you do feed your dogs a recommended diet, the quote of 164 kg of meat a year actually comes to the rough equivalent of a pound a day of “meat”, which in dogfood is usually “offal”, the parts of the animal that would be eaten by people here in the Philippines, or thrown away in the US and richer countries.

But if you are worried about your dog, and are so into saving the planet that you feel guilty about all of this, don’t worry: there are several vegetarian and vegan brands of pet food available on the market.

Or you can just go and buy yourself a goldfish:

Goldfish: 0.00034ha (an eco-finger-print equal to two cellphones).


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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