European cat owners may be giving a little gift to the oceans this Christmas when they feed their felines: Whiskas and Sheba will be using Marine Stewardship Council-certified fish in their cat food by the end of the year.
While supermarket fish counters and restaurant menus have increasingly started offering sustainably caught fish, this marks the first time a cat-food company is responsibly sourcing its product. MSC-certified fish is caught sustainably without further threatening dwindling stocks.
"The End of the Line film [a documentary about overfishing] has had a big impact," Mark Johnson, parent company Mars Petcare’s UK general manager, told the Guardian. "We are now the first pet company to make a commitment to sustainable fish, and we hope that will act as a catalyst for the whole industry."
(Scroll down to watch "The End of the Line" trailer.)
Mars Petcare has pledged to source all its fish globally from sustainable sources by 2020, according to the Guardian.
A spokesperson for the U.S. branch of Mars Petcare told Audubon that here the company is still in the “assessment phase” and there is no launch date for cat food with MSC-certified fish.
There are several ways eco-friendly pet owners can decrease Fido and Fluffy’s carbon “paw print,” including purchasing toys and other products made from recyclable and natural materials (check out simplyfido.com or planetdog.com), as well as properly disposing of waste (click here for advice from our Green Guru Susan Cosier on pet poo disposal).
But the majority of dogs and cats’ environmental impact comes from food. Globally, some 750 million pets consume 20 million tonnes of food annually, the Guardian reports.
In Time to Eat the Dog? The Guide to Sustainable Living New Zealand architects Robert and Brenda Vale calculated that a medium-sized dog has the same environmental impact as driving about 6,200 miles a year in a 4.6 liter Land Cruiser. A cat's eco-paw print of 0.15 hectares is slightly less than that of a Volkswagen Golf.
"We're not actually saying it is time to eat the dog,” Robert Vale told Reuters. “We're just saying that we need to think about and know the (ecological) impact of some of the things we do and that we take for granted."
The Vales recommend opting for smaller, “greener” pets instead, such as gold fish or chickens.
It’s certainly worth discussing, but given how much people love their cats and dogs, the Vales may be barking up the wrong tree.