Swanson said it would be helpful to develop a model that would estimate the environmental impact of pet foods and serve as a basis for strategies to increase the sustainability of pet foods in the future.
Such a model could be used to respond to those who argue that we should not keep pets at all. A controversial study published in 2009 equated the cost of keeping a mid-sized dog eating a normal diet with the environmental cost of driving an SUV 12,500 miles a year. A New Zealand environmentalist has launched a campaign, "Cats to Go," which aims to ban all cats from the country.
Both the study and the proposed ban have provoked heated, angry responses from animal lovers. Nonetheless, the issues they raise should be taken into account. Pet ownership is increasing in Eastern Europe, some areas of Latin America, and the China-Pacific region, so the impact of pet food production will certainly increase.
Pets play an important role in our lives and society, so sustaining pet ownership is critical in maintaining these benefits. Research has demonstrated the positive impact pets have on both the emotional and physical health of people with whom they have contact.
The researchers concluded that there are no "good" or "bad" practices; just some that are more or less sustainable. They hope that this article will serve to highlight areas where changes could be made to current practices and stimulate discussion within the industry so that the overall sustainability of pet foods may be improved in the future.
|Contact: Susan Jongeneel|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences