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Environmentalist Proposes We Collectively Share Dogs and Cats

Head in Hands

Sometimes it’s worth just posting exactly what these alleged bright thinkers who care about our future believe we should do to reshape our society:

Meanwhile, less than two weeks later, hundreds of companies and entrepreneurs convened in Orlando for the 10th annual Global Pet Expoto sell more useless stuff to pet owners – everything from remote video camera treat dispensing systems (for the guilty pet owner who spends all day at the office) to designer pet clothes, toys, even burial caskets – helping to stoke the annual $55.7bn pet industry in the US.

As our pets increasingly adopt the consumer habits of their owners, it’s clear that no matter how “green” this industry becomes, it will never become sustainable. But even if we severely restrict what pet products can be sold, and even if we stop overfeeding our increasingly overweight pet populations – 53% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight or obese in the US, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention – can pets be part of a sustainable future?

The short, if unpopular, answer is probably not. Two German Shepherds use more resources just for their annual food needs than the average Bangladeshi uses each year in total. And while pet owners may disagree that Bangladeshis have more right to exist than their precious Schnookums, the truth is that pets serve little more societal purpose than keeping us company in an increasingly individualistic and socially isolated consumer society.

Thorstein Veblen observed way back in 1899 that dogs’ “value to their owners lies chiefly in their utility as items of conspicuous consumption”. Granted, few dog – or other pet owners – would self-identify with this – thanks in part to the pet industry’s effective marketing strategy to humanize pets (83% of pet owners now consider their pets part of the family).

If you so desire, you can read the piece here. Yes, some pet owners appear to behave in ways that some of us might find over the top or ridiculous. I certainly have never traveled out of state to check out the latest toys for my dog, but the beauty of a free society is that people are free to explore eccentric hobbies or interests.

Imagine, for example, if the pet culture shifted away from owning one or more pets per household to more of a “time-share” or Zipcar model? Reserving a play date with your favorite Golden Retriever once a week would reduce pet ownership – and the resulting economic and environmental costs – dramatically as people felt comfortable occasionally playing with a shared pet instead of owning one. While we’re a long way from that future, a few services that promote pet sharing among pet lovers do already exist, like the online pet sharing platform, Pets to Share, and Californian-based nonprofit, citydogshare.org.

And imagine if pets that people owned once again provided a productive service – not just guarding the home, but also laying eggs (geese are both good security systems and egg layers), giving milk, or even providing meat in the case of a pig, rabbits, or guinea pigs (just ask Peruvians how tasty these can be).

Words fail me. I have tried guinea pig in Peru — they call it cuy — and I must say I didn’t love it. Try telling your daughter or son that it’s time to eat their pet guinea pig that they’ve fallen in love with over the years. I’m sure that will go over well.

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