We recently celebrated Earth Day around the world. I can recall being a very young (note the very) child when the first Earth Day was held in 1970. I believe we did something in school that was radical at the time like gathering up old newspapers at home and bringing them into class to be recycled. Since my father took two newspapers a day and read the Sunday paper, I think I had to bring in newspapers in a wheelbarrow. The first Earth Day was celebrated in some 2000 colleges and universities and by about 10,000 primary and secondary schools, along with many communities. Today Earth Day is celebrated in more than 192 countries each year. According to the Earth Day Network the day is now the largest secular holiday in the world. (I am going somewhere dog-related with this. Be patient.)
Does Earth Day actually do any good for the environment? Well, yes, it probably does since it provides a reminder to people about environmental issues. There's a “but” coming and it has to do with environmentalism and activism and taking things too far. And that's where we finally find dogs.
Thanks to some of the more radical elements that support the environmental cause, we have articles such as “Are pets bad for the environment?” by author Erik Assadourian from The Guardian in Britain. “With the world's resources under increasing pressure, Erik Assadourian argues that pet ownership needs a drastic rethink.” According to Mr. Assadourian, pets are a drain on the world's resources so we should, well, stop having pets. If that's not feasible, the author suggests things such as having smaller pets because they eat less. That's the gentlest of his suggestions.
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... 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.
Clearly, we are all bad people for having pets. We must be harming the environment and we're keeping those poor Bangladeshis from existing. By all means, yes, let's restrict what pet products can be sold because, well, capitalism and democracy – those economic and political systems which encourage individualism – are obsolete and harmful. Pets are obviously harmful and they serve no important purpose in society. Besides, we live in this horrible individualistic and socially-isolated consumer society – that depends on capitalism and democracy. And they are bad, right? (That was sarcasm, in case you were wondering.)
Maybe this guy has some other agenda? Like maybe he just really doesn't like our current society? Personally, I don't want someone – or a government – telling me what pet products I can buy. And I certainly don't want anyone telling me I cannot own pets. Or that I have to own a small pet instead of the pet of my choice because some environmental extremist in another country (or in this one) believes that pets are using too many resources.
Oh, those pets are such “ravenous consumers.” Those bad bad cats and dogs. The author goes on to predict a dreadful future when climate disrupts grain supplies and the cost of food becomes too high. People will abandon their pets by the millions, apparently leaving us all at the mercy of some doggy apocalypse. At that point, people will be eating pets anyway, so everything will work out just fine. Or perhaps roaming hordes of feral dogs will be eating humans. It's hard to say. (This is why I call this a radical environmental view.)
Not content with this message of doom and gloom, the man goes on to invoke Bob Barker (never a good sign) and suggests “a very steep tax on pets (along with pet products and pet food) and tripling that tax for pets that aren't spayed or neutered (so that only breeders would choose not to fix their pets).” He also suggests that marketing of pets and pet products could be banned and “polluting veterinarian services like chemotherapy” should only be done on service animals. He says if people in poorer countries can't afford advanced treatments, then pets shouldn't have them either.
At this point I believe I stopped reading before my head exploded.
I could write a lengthy description of all the things dogs do to help humans and justify their presence in society, but why bother? If they do nothing else at all, dogs are good pets and they have been with humans for at least 15,000-33,000 years (probably longer). I love my dogs not because they can hunt or scare away someone who comes to the door uninvited, or for any of the other historic reasons people keep dogs. I love them because they are good companions. I will probably go on loving them in the event of a zombie apocalypse -- human or canine.
Whatever your views about global warming or global cooling or kill-shots from the sun or any other extinction events in the future – near or far – can we please agree that we need to share our lives with our pets? Our pets make our lives better in innumerable ways. I know I'm preaching to the choir for many pet lovers. Dogs and cats (and other pets) provide friendship, love, and companionship. For many people they are family – sometimes the only family we have. They stand with us through good and bad. They don't care if we are rich or poor. They accept our lot in life no matter what it may be. All they ask is that they can be with us.
It honestly breaks my heart to think that someone would advocate for a world of humans without pets or that there are people who believe that pets consume too many resources. We all know that there are countless owners who would go without food in order to feed their pets. Of course the environment is important and we have to take care of our wonderful world. But wherever there are humans, there will be pets. That's a bond that's too close to break.