Professor claims dogs and cats harm climate, advises hamsters instead


A UCLA professor who recommended replacing dogs and cats with more climate-friendly pets in the name of global warming may have bitten off more than he can chew.

Professor claims dogs and cats harm climate, advises hamsters instead

His study, which found that dogs and cats have a significant impact on carbon emissions as a result of their meat-based diets, met with howls from pet owners and a lukewarm reception even from some environmentalists who also happen to love dogs.

Nil Zacharias, the founder of the digital media company One Green Planet, favors a plant-based diet, however as the owner of a 5-year-old Labrador mix named Goji, he said that asking people to give up their pets is unrealistic as well as problematic for the millions of shelter animals waiting for homes.

"You’re not going to see that happen," Mr. Zacharias said. "I think dogs and cats, at least as long as they exist, are going to play an important role in our society and culturally, so I think telling people not to adopt cats and dogs would be irresponsible."

In his paper published not long ago, UCLA professor Gregory S. Okin found that meat-eating dogs and cats create the equivalent of 64 million tons of carbon dioxide per year based on the energy consumption required to produce their food, or the same impact as driving 13.6 million cars.

"I like dogs and cats, and I’m definitely not recommending that people get rid of their pets or put them on a vegetarian diet, which would be unhealthy," Mr. Okin said in a statement. "But I do think we should consider all the impacts that pets have so we can have an honest conversation about them. Pets have many benefits but also a huge environmental impact."

The study comes with livestock, notably cows, already targeted by the environmental movement for their prodigious methane production, prompting calls for people to reduce their beef consumption in order to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Mr. Okin suggested making the transition from dogs and cats to smaller animals including hamsters, reptiles and birds, or herbivores such as horses.

The study linked emissions to meat production, which "has considerably greater impacts on water use, fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions, fertilizer use and pesticide use."

According to Mr. Zacharias it’s possible to mitigate the impact of meat-eating pets by giving dogs plant-based treats, such as sweet potatoes, which he does with his dog and "she loves it."

At the same time, he said, "you have to be responsible when it comes to feeding your dog or cat."

Read more at Washington Times

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