By Jessica Varley
Pets outnumber people in many countries. Despite our own increasing carbon footprint, the paws, wings and claws of our house animals also contribute to the matter.
It’s not as simple as owning a smaller animal, which will demand fewer resources. Pet owners have a responsibility to ensure that they’re minimizing the environmental impact of their animals by undertaking some sustainable measures. In a perfect world, how can we project a sustainable future for the pet industry?
Managing the consumption of your pet may not be an obvious element to consider. However, understanding what your pet really eats is key. Historically, the pet industry accrued big profits with the lucrative manufacturing of horse meat, which was tinned and labeled specifically for dogs after World War I.
Typical Western consumption of food is considered unsustainable, specifically with increasing wastage of food. This could be offset with uneaten meat or poultry parts repurposed for our pets. For example, raw bones are a great source of nutrients for cats and dogs, and they cost next to nothing from your local butcher. Also, ensuring that your pets are not ingesting any preservatives and additives will help keep them healthy and may reduce vet visits.
Another matter to be concerned about is the recent surge and demand for ‘human-grade’ pet food. This movement aims to meet nutritional standards for our furry friends, but unfortunately there is a lot of wastage involved. Traditionally we adopted a ‘top to tail’ way of eating, in which people consumed all parts of the animal, a practice that has sadly remained in the past.
If we’re feeding our pets exactly the same cuts we enjoy, we are continuing to steer away from a sustainable consumption of animals.
With more pets than humans on our planet and an increasing awareness for optimal pet nutrition, the demand for ‘human-grade’ pet food has a potential to run into trouble.
Ensuring our pets receive optimal nutrition is key, but this could be achieved with a more sustainable approach such as feeding pets perhaps “unwanted” cuts of animals.
We may be impervious to our own waste, which is efficiently filtered through our toilet systems, but we also have to look after our pets’ waste and dispose of it responsibly.
If your pet’s waste is not collected using a biodegradable bag, you can expect it to sit in wasteland for many years without decomposing. Or worse, it could end up in our waterways.
An American study conducted in 2014 found that waterways are subject to many sources of fecal contaminants, which can include those from our beloved pets: Animals can carry antibiotic-resistant strains of E.Coli.
Turning a blind eye on your pet’s businesses is irresponsible on many moral levels, but understanding how it can impact us directly should be even more motivation to pick up after them.
Defying natural habits
Another big issue pet owners must be wary of is the primal nature of their animals. For example, cats will hunt native or wild animals and most likely leave them deceased on your front doorstep as offerings.
Managing the native animal population is crucial for your natural environment. You can mitigate impact by applying a bell to your cat or dog’s collar to warn potential prey. Or us pet accessories like a cat bib, which help to interfere with an attack.
Another issue to be wary of is the rate of feral, abandoned or wild animals and the close contact they may have with your pet. These animals unfortunately can be carriers of disease, ticks and fleas which should be avoided to help protect the health of your pet.
Additionally, it is always wise to de-sex your pet at birth to prevent the potential for any cross-breeding with feral animals, let alone other pets. The rate of pets that are sent to the “farm” because they don’t have a home is an increasing issue that can be mitigated with responsible pet-parenting.
We may be outnumbered by our furry, scaly, feathery friends, but knowing how to manage their carbon footprint and minimize their impact will put household pets on a path to a sustainable future. Change must also come from industry itself with the manufacturing of high-quality pet food without the waste, development of natural products and education for pet owners.
Image via Unsplash
Jessica Varley works in customer service at Pet Circle.