Pets offer benefits to people including companionship leading to better mental health and improved physical exercise. They also provide assistance to the blind or deaf. The way people treat their pets is very much different from how they behave towards their fellow humans. They are considered part of the family and bestowed with expensive treats. In fact, a pet's needs matter much more than other people's.
The most notorious mass slaughter of dogs for food occurs once a year in China during the Yulin dog meat festival. About 10,000 dogs are killed every year and eaten. Why are people are more upset over the dog meat festival than with the 9 billion factory farm animals die each year in the United States?
Sustainability is about meeting the requirement of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and all about achieving an overall balance. 60% of Americans own a pet. The pet industry was a $66.75 billion industry in the United States in 2016. There are approximately 163 million dogs and cats in the US and having the most pet cats and dogs of any country has considerable consequences. The pet food industry is worth nearly $25 billion in the United States. Robert and Brenda Vale in their book 'Time to Eat the Dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living' suggests that a medium-size dog could have a similar footprint to a large SUV.
Producing pet food requires a lot of animal protein. Typical dog foods contain at least 20 percent protein, while cat food even more. Much of this is from animal sources, directly competing with the human food system. The impact on the environment through meat production is well-documented using more energy, land, water and with greater erosion, pesticide use, pollution. Dog and cat food is responsible for the release of methane and nitrous oxide, both greenhouse gases, equivalent to driving 13.6 million cars for a year or releasing 64 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Cats and dogs are responsible for up to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the United States. Our canine and feline companions consume about 25 percent of the total calories derived from animals in the US. If all the cats and dogs in America was a country, it would rank fifth in the world in meat consumption. Americans�dogs and cats consume about as many calories as the entire population of France every year, or about 19 percent as many calories as Americans themselves. Despite the fact that more than 60% of US households have pets, these furry 'consumers' are rarely included in projections of the environmental effect of dietary choices.
It痴 not just what we feed our pets but how much. Well over half the dogs and cats in the US are overweight. Many pet foods are formulated to provide nutrients in excess of current minimum recommendations are over-consumed by pets, resulting in food wastage and obesity. Pets do need good-quality food, but they don’t have to compete for the same quality of beef as their owners. Dogs would be happy with the other less-appetising cuts and can eat diets containing properly cooked grain and other plant ingredients. One genetic difference between dogs and wolves is that dogs have an increased ability to obtain nutrients from grains.
And, of course, let us not forget that what goes in must come out. Pets in the United States alone produce as much faeces in a year as 90 million humans.
Nor can the harm our pets inflict on nature be over-looked. A 2013 study found that cats kill billions of animals in the US each year, and represent a major threat to wildlife. In Germany alone, cats kill at least 14 million birds a year - in addition to numerous small mammals and reptiles.
In a future socialist society, vegetarian pets such as rabbits might confer similar benefits as cats and dogs do yet having less damage on the environment. In today's world, our atomised culture that is becoming more prevalent in capitalism makes pets a substitute for human interaction and relationships. Loneliness and isolation are real social problems but as socialism fosters increased community, we can perhaps foresee less reliance on dogs as man's best friend.