WHAT’S YOUR PET’S ECO PAWPRINT?
We can all make an impact with lifestyle changes such as eating less meat and living and shopping more sustainably. But what impact can our pets have on the environment? There are now lots of plant-based alternatives which can lessen your pet's paw print.
Did you know … that a quarter of the environmental impact of meat production comes from the pet-food industry?
Did you know … that the environmental footprint of a 30KG golden retriever on a raw meat diet is almost double that of the average American
Did you know … that meat-based pet food is responsible for up to 30% of the
contribution attributable to animal agriculture?
Did you know… that animal agriculture is more carbon-intensive than the entire transportation sector combined?
Did you know … that farm animals produce fifty times more waste than humans?
‘The feeding of companion animals plays a role in environmental change,’ says
Dr Peter Alexander of the University of Edinburgh
● The United Nations acknowledge that animal agriculture is ‘one of the
top two or three significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.’
● The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified plant-based diets as a ‘major opportunity for mitigating climate change.’
● An area twice the size of the UK is used to produce dry pet food for cats and dogs each year, according to research by the University of Edinburgh, with annual greenhouse gas emissions found to be 106m tonnes of carbon dioxide.
● The pet food industry emits more greenhouse gases each year that some countries, such as Mozambique and the Philippines, the University of Edinburgh study found
● The production process alone for a single kilogram of beef can be responsible for up to 1,000 kilograms of CO2
● The CO2 resulting from pets’ meat consumption is the equivalent to that produced by 13.6 million cars over the course of an entire year
● The production of animal-based food is responsible for approximately one third of our fresh water consumption globally
● Transitioning a seventy-pound dog from a raw meat diet to a plant-based diet could save 2,200 gallons of water, approximately sixty square feet of rainforest, around ninety pounds of grain, and the lives of two farm animals...every day, say the authors of ‘The Clean Pet Food Revolution’
● The loss of natural habitats to factory farming provides a major threat to the existence of wildlife, according to a University of Oxford study
15% of all man made emissions come from animal agriculture
18% of greenhouse gas emissions have been attributed to animal
77% of the world’s agricultural land is used for raising livestock that
provides only 33% of protein for global consumption. Corn, soy and
wheat account for only 23% of agricultural land yet produce 67% of
protein for global consumption
18 times more land is needed to feed a meat-eater than someone on a
1 billion – that’s how many pet dogs are estimated to live in
9 million dogs live in UK homes, 70 million throughout Europe and a
staggering 80 million in the US
OUR DOGS ARE MASSIVE CONSUMERS TOO
In trying to care for our environment we may be overlooking a major
contributor to environmental damage that’s right under our noses - our own
pets. The truth is, the dog population has a significant carbon footprint from
the food we feed them to the products we may use on them.
An area twice the size of the UK is used to produce dry pet food for dogs and
cats each year, according to research by the University of Edinburgh into the
global environmental impact of pet food production. It also found the industry
emits more greenhouse gases each year than some countries, such as
Mozambique and the Philippines. About 49m hectares of agricultural land are
used annually to make dry food for cats and dogs, with annual greenhouse gas
emissions found to be 106m tonnes of carbon dioxide. ‘Even accounting for the
use of by-products in pet foods, the feeding of companion animals plays a role
in environmental change,’ says Dr Peter Alexander, of the university’s School of
GeoSciences and Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security. ‘It’s a topic
that has been previously overlooked, but we have shown that pets and how
they are fed should be considered alongside other actions to reduce climate
change and biodiversity loss.’
WE’RE THINKING MORE ABOUT OUR OWN ECO FOOTPRINT, BUT
MAYBE NOT OUR FURRY FRIEND’S
Our eco awareness is on the rise. Climate change and sustainability are hot
topics in the media and online with documentaries such as Cowspiracy, What
The Health and the excellent 2018 film, The Game Changers enlightening many
of us, with awareness growing not just around pollution, recycling and
emissions, but around the impact of the food we consume on the environment
- on deforestation, biodiversity and water consumption, for example.
And it’s the excessive demand for factory farmed meat, the land that is needed
to raise the animals to produce that meat for both human and pet food, that is
having a massive environmental impact.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have identified plant-based diets as a ‘major opportunity for mitigating climate change’ and issued policy recommendations to reduce meat consumption. But despite all the positive lifestyle changes adopted by people around the world over the past decade, we continue to
feed our dogs food that’s comprised primarily of animal products or, more
MORE PETS FED ON MEAT = MORE ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE
We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the numbers of pets around the world,
and it’s a trend which looks set to continue (especially in a post-COVID-19
world, with more people working from home). There are already close to nine
million household dogs in the UK alone with 70 million across Europe and 80
million in the US, and the number is likely to be closer to one billion worldwide.
And as the human population increases, the pet population will inevitably
follow, and so will the numbers of animals that will need to be bred to feed
those pets, if nothing changes.
The United Nations acknowledge that animal agriculture is ‘one of the top two
or three significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems,
at every scale from local to global.’ Meat-based pet food is responsible for up
to 30% of the contribution attributable to animal agriculture. In fact, the
environmental footprint of a seventy-pound golden retriever on a raw meat
diet is almost double that of the average American omnivore, and the ‘high
quality’ meat cuts of raw diets are the most resource-intensive of all.
WHY IS ANIMAL AGRICULTURE SO CARBON-INTENSIVE?
We think about the emissions that stem from the cars we drive, the planes we
fly in and the trains we travel on. But animal agriculture is more carbon-
intensive than the entire transportation sector combined with estimates that
it’s responsible for 15% of all manmade emissions. With meat-based pet food
accounting for almost one third of animal agriculture our dogs’ meat-based
diets clearly involve an extremely carbon intensive production process.
Why? Because factory farms produce a lot of animal waste. Farm animals
produce - on average - fifty times more waste than humans. This, combined
with the fact that farm animals tend to be densely packed together, means
that many factory farms produce far more manure than can be absorbed by
the land as fertiliser, resulting in runoffs that contaminate rivers and other
local water supplies.
Raising, processing, transporting and storing farmed animals generates high
quantities of CO2 and methane gas, which contribute significantly to pollution
and, consequently, climate change. 18% of greenhouse gas emissions have
been attributed to animal agriculture. The production process alone for a
single kilogram of beef can be responsible for up to 1,000 kilograms of CO2.
Livestock also need acres of space to live and graze, meaning millions of trees
must be cleared to accommodate factory farms; trees that would otherwise
have filtered carbon from the atmosphere. The loss of natural habitats to
factory farming is also posing a major threat to the existence of wildlife,
according to a University of Oxford study
THE REAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF OUR PETS’ MEAT
In the US, feeding pets meat-based diets generates 25–30% of the
environmental impacts resulting from animal production, concluded Gregory
Okin, Professor in the Departments of Geography and the Institute of the
Environment and Sustainability at the University of California. It’s claimed that
the CO2 resulting from pets’ meat consumption is the equivalent to that
produced by 13.6 million cars over the course of an entire year. Plant-based
alternatives on the other hand can be produced using a fraction of these
A United Nations report shows that livestock production accounts for 30% of
the planet’s land surface, and 70% of all agricultural land in the US. This has led
to degradation across 72% of rangelands in dry areas, mainly through
overgrazing, compaction and erosion created by livestock-related activities.
Also, the production of animal feed – essential for rearing farm animals - is one
of the leading drivers of deforestation, and also plays a huge role in the
overuse of precious fresh water.
MEAT PRODUCTION IS VERY INEFFICIENT
Animals consume on average six times more protein than they produce. 77%
of the world’s agricultural land is used for raising livestock that provides only
33% of protein for global consumption, according to ‘The Clean Pet Food
Revolution’. In contrast, other food sources such as corn, soy and wheat
account for only 23% of agricultural land yet produce 67% of protein for global
consumption. As a result, 18 times more land is needed to feed a meat-eater
than someone on a plant-based diet.
And although the trend for feeding our pets better quality ‘grass fed’ or ‘cage-
free’ animals is better for the animals and our own conscience; it comes with a
higher environmental price tag because the farmed animals are given more
space and consume more greenery. The resulting pet food contains a higher
proportion of meat than the by-product-based foods they’ve replaced. And
more meat means more animals, which means more emissions and more
WHAT ABOUT WATER SHORTAGES?
It’s not just our forests that are affected by the sheer scale of meat-production.
It’s also our increasingly limited sources of fresh water. In the US, only 5% of
fresh water is needed to meet the needs of people in their homes – drinking,
showering, washing – yet the crops needed solely to feed livestock require a
massive 56% of the total fresh water supply. 2,400 litres of water are needed
just to produce one burger and 880 gallons of water to produce a gallon of
cow’s milk. Even a single chicken’s egg could need 53 gallons of water. It takes
only 25 gallons of water to produce a whole pound of grain. In fact, the
production of animal-based food is responsible for approximately one third of
our fresh water consumption globally.
TIME TO MAKE THE SWITCH?
Unfortunately, meat-based pet food is a significant contributor to animal
agriculture, one of the leading causes of climate change, biodiversity loss and
deforestation. The uncomfortable reality is that our planet can’t sustain the
resources needed by the 70 billion land animals raised each year for human
and pet consumption.
Transitioning our dogs to a plant-based diet might seem like a drop in the
ocean, but it could really help support a more sustainable food system.
Switching a seventy-pound dog from a raw meat diet to a plant-based diet
could save 2,200 gallons of water, approximately sixty square feet of
rainforest, around ninety pounds of grain, and the lives of two farm
animals...every day, say the authors of ‘The Clean Pet Food Revolution.’
WHY IS PLANT-BASED DOG FOOD SO GOOD FOR THE
Because it uses a fraction of the energy, land and water that meat-based pet
food does. By 2050, dietary changes alone could reduce CO2 emissions by up
to eight billion tonnes per year, and free up millions of square kilometres of
lan2d. Research from the University of Oxford has shown that if every one of us
transitioned to a plant-based diet, this could reduce global land use by 75%.
Feeding your dog a flexitarian or fully plant-based diet could also conserve an
incredible amount of water and other valuable resources.
You may want to introduce some plant- based foods to your dog’s diet
gradually - still feeding some meat-based food - and then transition to a fully
plant-based diet. It’s important to remember that any canine diet must be
nutritionally complete and balanced, comprising the recommended levels of
fats, protein, carbohydrates and other macronutrients recommended by
canine nutrition experts. These macronutrients can all be sourced exclusively
Scientific evidence shows that plant-based foods can provide all the nutrients,
vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that dogs need, whilst offering a clean,
transparent and sustainable alternative to meat-based diets - so it has far less
impact on our planet, without sacrificing our dogs’ nutrition…it could be a
great first step in helping us to get one step closer to a sustainable future.
Try the Pet Pawprint Calculator
If you'd like to know what your dog's current carbon pawprint is, Pet Insurance Company Many Pets have launched a calculator where you can get an answer in just a few clicks. Try out the Pet Carbon Calculator and find out how much carbon dioxide your pet pal produces per year.
THE HOWND PROMISE
HOWND creates products that help keep dogs happy and healthy for life, while encouraging others to live a planet-kind, cruelty-free lifestyle. We believe the world would be a better place if more people embraced the power of plants.
Our products are kind to our precious planet and the animals that inhabit it. That’s why dogs and their humans love HOWND.
We are convinced that dogs can thrive without compromising the welfare of other animals. Since day one, HOWND pet care has been certified by Cruelty-Free International and is accredited by The Vegetarian (Vegan) Society, PETA Cruelty-Free and The Ethical Company Organisation.