A former Australian energy and resources minister has proposed a carbon tax for pets—an idea that is as rational as it will no doubt be controversial.
“They might be furry and they might be cute, but they do have a carbon footprint and an environmental cost,” former minister Theo Theophanus told Australian 3AW693.
“Everybody wants us to address the climate issue, but they don’t want to address it personally and in their own use of resources on the planet,” he added, saying a carbon tax on pets could raise between US$68 and US$103 million (A$100-150 million).
While Theophanus’s proposal would certainly sound heartless to anyone who has ever owned a pet, he does have a point. Like people, cats and dogs—and other pets as well—also have a carbon pawprint.
Back in 2017, a study revealed that cats and dogs are responsible for as much as a quarter of the emissions produced by animal agriculture. That’s 64 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent that accompanies the production of pet food. This is about the same amount driving 13 million cars would produce.
What’s more, researchers stipulated that the larger the animal, the larger its carbon pawprint, meaning bigger dogs cause more emissions than smaller breeds and cats. Still, the researchers also noted that there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that dog ownership is any worse for the environment than other, pet-free lifestyle choices.
“Further research in this area would be beneficial before making environmental recommendations about dog ownership to the public,” they said at the time. “Still, we would suggest with some confidence that a smaller dog is likely to have a smaller carbon footprint than a larger dog.”
This is because cats and dogs eat meat, and the process of bringing this meat to the can is associated with a lot of emissions, from the clearing of land to raise livestock, which sometimes involves excessive deforestation, to raising the livestock, and to processing the meat. A kilo of pork takes 24 kilos of CO2 and a kilo of beef takes as much as 1,000 kilos of CO2. Certainly food for thought for pet owners.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com