Authors Claim Pets Are More Damaging to Environment Than SUVs

Robert and Brenda Vale's new book blasts pets for hogging Earth's resources.

ByABC News
December 22, 2009, 2:20 PM

Dec. 23, 2009— -- Taking the dog for a walk to the store would seem like a more environmentally-friendly option than piling into the SUV.

Not so, say two New Zealand scientists whose new book claims pets have a carbon footprint that is about twice the size of the gas guzzling vehicles that have long been a bane of environmentalism.

In "Time to Eat the Dog, the Real Guide to Sustainable Living," Robert and Brenda Vale charge that a medium-size dog has a footprint of 2.1 acres compared with slightly more than one acre for a standard sport utility vehicle.

The New Scientist Web site relayed other carbon footprint comparisons from the Vales' book. Cats are roughly equal to small Volkswagens while two hamsters have the same footprint as a plasma television. Goldfish are comparable to a pair of cell phones.

"There is no question but that pets do exert a claim on resources," Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., told

"Dogs and cats are carnivores so they consume meat, which means they live rather high on the food chains," he said. "Much higher than the typical person in the sense that most of us -- even those who are omnivorous -- eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and cereals and other things."

Meat requires a high amount of land and energy to produce as opposed to cereals, raising the carbon foot print of carnivors.

The Vales rationalize, according to New Scientist, that dogs and cats take up much of the planet's natural resources because of their diets. They estimate that a medium-sized dog eats about 361.5 pounds of meat each year and that it takes about 1.67 miles to cultivate just 2.2 pounds of chicken. The numbers for beef are higher.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said it was irresponsible to lay blame on domesticated animals without looking at human consumption.

"I think the first instinct should be to look at our own diet and not push off the global warming causes to domesticated animals," Pacelle told "If this is their primary thesis, it's an example of over magnified concern and we need to look to our own behaviors, not just energy consumption and transportation, but also our diet."