Man’s flexitarian friend: Putting our dog on a veggie diet

Spend It Better: Dogs and cats could account for a quarter of farming’s emissions

She has big paws, our rescue dog, and very discerning tastes. The more expensive the kibble the more she likes it, crunching down quantities that make owning our large lump of loveliness a pricey essential. She’s extremely partial to raw egg when bagels have been baked and there’s egg wash to spare.

There's a big carbon paw-print in our house. She was, until recently, the only member of the household who ate meat every day. Two of us are pescatarians and the meat-eaters enjoy small portions of meat occasionally, free range chicken and some Rare Ruminare beef (rareruminare.com). So last month I decided to test if our carnivore could go veggie.

The impact of meat production makes a vegetarian or meat-light diet the most sustainable way to eat. Methane reduction is now seen as the fastest and cheapest climate fix, starting with leaky fossil fuel facilities and then moving to our food system.

Meat is a climate nightmare. Each cow produces as much greenhouse gas as a family car every year. But industrially-farmed meat is also a mass extinction mincing machine. We have reduced wild animals to a sliver. They make up just 4 per cent of the mammals on the planet. Us humans are 34 per, and our livestock constitute a bloated and growing 62 per cent. An insatiable appetite for meat puts even the sliver of wild mammals left under threat.

Pet ownership soared during the pandemic as we reached for furry comfort. But dogs and cats are estimated to be responsible for a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions of livestock farming. It could be argued that dog food is made with waste from an industry already producing food. But shouldn’t we be putting our animals on a more sustainable diet?

Paper sack

Our dog, who looks like a wolf, loves her new Veggie Dog pet food. It arrived from Zoo Plus (zooplus.ie) in a paper sack with no plastic packing. The manufacturer claims a 125 per cent carbon offset through the preservation of Tanzanian forest. So hopefully our veggie wolf dog supports habitat for her wild sister creatures. It works out cheaper than the premium brands, at around €1.50 a day.

We will give her beef bones and some fresh meat once a week. She loves the new food. It smells nicer and the results at the other end are also less noxious. Her dog breath has even improved.

There are plenty of vehement arguments about vegan pets online but we don’t need a fully-vegan population of pets anymore than we need a fully-vegan human population. Flexitarian diets are where it’s at. We need everyone to reduce their meat consumption, human’s best friend included.

Catherine Cleary is co-founder of Pocket Forests