The global population is estimated to be about 7.7 billion with only 375 million people (4.87%) on some form of a vegetarian diet at the time of this writing.
In a recent study by The Lancet, Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, published on 16 January 2019, there is growing evidence that we may not be able to feed the projected 10 billion people by 2050 should we continue our current dietary habits.
The researchers concluded that we need to come up with a “win-win diet” that is both healthy and environmentally sustainable in order to avert this coming disaster. However, that would require a minimum of 50% reduction in global consumption of unhealthy foods, such as red meat and sugar, and a greater than 100% increase in consumption of healthy foods, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes.
In plain English, switching to a plant-based diet not only helps to save animals and the environment but it also helps to save human lives by allowing more people to actually have food to eat in the future. How cool is that?
What is Wrong With Meat Production?
There was a time in my life when I was still eating meat that I used to tell myself, “What is wrong with eating meat? It is just a piece of chicken, beef, pork, fish, etc. What’s the harm in that?”.
Although I understood that the animal had to be slaughtered before I could eat it and I agreed that it “wasn’t nice”, I failed to see the connection to the extra land, water and plants required to raise the animal I enjoyed eating.
In the report by Viva, How Livestock Farming is Killing the Planet, the researchers reveal exactly how livestock farming is linked to all the main areas of concern including global warming and climate change, land and water use, overfishing, biodiversity loss, deforestation, desertification, air pollution, antibiotic resistance, world hunger and food waste.
Once I understood that eating a piece of meat did far more damage to the world than just killing a single animal, I could no longer justify my lame excuses for continuing to do what I was raised to do.
How Does Meat-Based Pet Food Damage the Environment?
There were two recent studies written on the environmental impact of pet food for cats and dogs.
It is important to note that the estimation of an animal’s ecological pawprint (EPP) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is not an exact science and the researchers have made certain assumptions in their calculations.
The Ecological Paw Print of Companion Dogs and Cats by Pim Martens, Bingtao Su, Samantha Deblomme
Published on 22 May 2019
In this study, the researchers looked at data collected in China, Japan and the Netherlands.
- Cats and dogs in China have an estimated ecological footprint of between 72.3 million and 252.3 million Chinese people in a year. GHG emissions from this dry-food consumption are between 16.7 million and 57.4 million tons per year.
- Cats and dogs in Japan have an estimated ecological footprint of between 4.62 million and 19.79 million Japanese people in a year. GHG emissions from this dry-food consumption are between 2.52 million and 10.70 million tons per year.
- Cats and dogs in the Netherlands have an estimated ecological footprint of between 0.50 million and 1.51 million Dutch people in a year. GHG emissions from this dry-food consumption are between 1.09 million and 3.28 million tons per year.
One of their proposed solutions to reduce the ecological pawprint of cats and dogs is as follows.
The first and most evident solution for dramatically reducing companion animals’ dietary EPP is to adopt vegetarian or vegan diets. This alternative diet has generated an ongoing and divisive debate, because it may not be the best possible path for maintaining an animal’s health (or may be impossible, given certain dietary needs—e.g., cats, which are obligate carnivores) while significantly reducing its dietary EPP.
It is clear to me that they have not done research into the possibilities of vegan pet food and left it as a “maybe” in their study. Vague expressions of the “best possible path” and “may be possible” create more questions than answers.
Further reading on vegan pet food can be found at:
- Why Vegan Pet Food?
- Is it safe for cats to be vegan?
- Is Vegan Dog Food Unfair for Dogs?
- Dispelling the Misinformation of Vegan Pet Food
- Should your dog go vegan?
Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats by Gregory S. Okin
Published on 2 August 2017
In this study, Gregory Okin investigated the ecological pawprint of cats and dogs in the USA.
- Cats and dogs in the USA constitute about 25–30% of the environmental impacts from animal production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides.
- Cat and dog animal product consumption is responsible for the release of up to 64 ± 16 million tons of CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gasses (GHGs).
- Cats and dogs in the USA consume as much dietary energy as ~62 million Americans, which is approximately one-fifth of the US population.
- If all of the faeces from US dogs and cats, not including kitty litter and bags, were disposed of as garbage, their faeces would be equivalent to the total garbage produced by 6.63 million Americans.
Photo by kailash kumar.