How Much Damage is Meat Based Pet Food Doing to Our Planet?
You may not know it but meat processing for pet food has serious adverse effects on the environment, causing considerable pollution. Research by University of California’s Professor George Okin found that the food manufactured to feed more than 160 million dogs and cats in the US is responsible for 30% of the pollution that meat production causes, resulting in the release of more than 64 million tons of carbon dioxide into the environment annually. This pollution is equivalent to the impact that 12 million ordinary cars have on the environment annually and is mostly a result of pet owner demands for human grade protein for cats and dogs, which compels manufacturers to use resources like fossil fuels, pesticides, and preservatives that destroy the environment.
However, Prof Okin says this does not imply that keeping pets is bad; it only means that the choice of food that owners choose to feed them is adversely affecting the planet and will get worse as pet ownership increases in countries like China which is transitioning from low to middle-income status. Furthermore, the demand for quality in modern pet foods is compelling manufacturers to use more and more human grade food in production, as opposed to the traditional by-product and leftover foods that previously dominated the pet food industry. However, even by-product and leftover food processors still engage procedures that pollute the environment as much as ordinary meat processing for humans, leading to similar harmful impacts. In addition, this overfeeding with high-calorie food is leaving dogs and cats overweight, grappling with obesity and serious health problems.
Another study by Professor Joseph Poore of the University of Oxford found that elimination of animal products from the diet and the uptake of plant-based alternatives reduces carbon emissions and pollution by up to 73% while cutting down land use by 75%. Furthermore, the drastic reduction in factory farming for animal products due to the growth of veganism will save wildlife that loses their habitats due to industrial growth. Animals reared for meat, which tends to be herbivores like cows, goats, and sheep, also pollute the atmosphere through flatulence which releases more greenhouse gas emissions than vehicles, planes and other modes of transport combined. Vegan alternatives that replace meat in the diet such as vegetable proteins, soy products, legumes, nuts, grains etc require much fewer resources to produce and deliver to consumers, providing numerous benefits to the environment.
Livestock rearing not only affects the atmosphere, but it also pollutes water-ways, rivers and oceans when animal waste and dung run-off into surrounding water bodies after rain and other precipitation events. Some of the pollutants include phosphates and nitrates that disrupt the chemical balance in water bodies and destroy native organisms. Waste releases into water bodies also cause eutrophication, an excessive concentration of nutrients due to run-off from land, causing dense aquatic plant life while literally suffocating organisms in the water body due to over-consumption of all the available oxygen.
Consequently, for animals such as dogs that are omnivorous, it makes sense if owners can introduce a plant-based diet because they have amylase genes and can digest starch and many other plant nutrients that humans also consume. As members of the canine species, dogs possess the ability to convert one type of amino acid into others, enabling them to consume non-meat proteins to transform them into the proteins they may want from meat.