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The Environmental Impact of Pets

by John Burns BVMS MRCVS

The keeping of pets came in for a bit of criticism recently as the result of a recent report by Edinburgh University academics. This highlighted the environmental impact of keeping pets.  The report concluded that pet food production accounted for 1 -3% of agricultural emissions.

There can be no denying that keeping a pet does increase our overall carbon footprint.  But there are also numerous powerful and well recognised benefits to human health and well being which should be taken into consideration.

How Can We Make a Difference?

It has to be a good idea to try to minimise the environmental impact of pet keeping.  There are 28 million households in the UK.  The dog and cat populations are both estimated to be about 10 million each.  This suggests there may be 12 million households with a dog or cat or both.

If these households were to make a concerted effort to reduce and offset the environmental impact of having a pet, this could make a huge difference.  I see the potential for a united campaign by the pet owning public to come together and make a real difference, which would not just reduce the carbon footprint of pets but also lead to huge benefits to pet health. Here’s what you can do.

  • Reduce the overall amount of food and treats consumed by pets.

We have an epidemic of overweight pets, so simply reducing the amount of food and treats will help to reduce the environmental impact.  That will also help in reducing obesity as well as many other health problems, both physical and mental, which affect pets.

  • Reduce the amount of meat and other animal – based ingredients in pet food.

Meat and animal products account for over 80% of the environmental impact of food production so feeding pets on lower protein foods with higher complex carbohydrate, such as as Burns, can be helpful.

  • Feed pet food which is highly digestible

Feeding better quality pet food which is more digestible means that not so much food is needed and less poo is produced which means less needs to be disposed of.

  • Apply (1) and (2) to our own eating habits.

As with pets, eating less and reducing the proportion of animal products in the human diet can make a huge impact on human health as well as the environment.

  • Plant trees or pay for trees to be planted on your behalf.

You could either plant trees in your own garden, buy goods from companies that plant trees for you, or pay for a tree to be planted on your behalf, such as through the National Forest initiative.

by John Burns BVMS MRCVS
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