Nasty dogs?

by Russ Roberts on February 11, 2008

in Environment

Arnold at EconLog has a very nice post on the environmental impact of dogs:

Which do you think takes a bigger toll on the environment, owning a
dog, or owning an SUV? My bet would be on the dog. I’m thinking of all
of the resources that go into dog food.

You could argue that children also consume a lot of resources, but
that is different. A dog does not have the potential to discover a cure
for cancer. A dog is not going to provide for you in your old age.

I personally have nothing against dogs. But it does seem to me that
environmentalism inevitably points toward a policy of extermination of
pet dogs. Unless environmentalism is simply hatred of industry.

What’s particularly interesting are the comments. People are angry. Dogs are great, they say. They make people’s lives better.

No doubt. So do SUVs. So do grapes from Chile. I think Arnold was merely suggesting that there are tradeoffs. If you make tradeoffs for dogs (which of course you should), why not make them for SUVs?

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Brad Hutchings February 11, 2008 at 12:46 pm

The thing that Arnold fails to see is the environmental impact of taking your dog(s) to the dog park in your SUV. I'll be doing that later today. Dogs aren't allowed off leash in my town, so we make the 8 mile commute to an approved play area often.

Mcwop February 11, 2008 at 12:51 pm

I bought a dog for protection, since my local government fails at crime prevention, and outlaws carrying a gun. He is big, eats lots of food, poops a lot (which is picked up in plastic bags then sent to the dump), and goes through countless tennis balls.

In the end, my dog is also a great companion, and we get lots of exercise walking him. Dog owners live longer for this reason, but I guess that is a drain on social security.

Richard Pointer February 11, 2008 at 1:09 pm

I would argue that to be dog-less is to be less human. See my co-evolution argument on

Brad Hutchings February 11, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Hey Richard, my dogs feel the same way about our SUV :-) .

The other Eric February 11, 2008 at 1:37 pm

I don't understand this line of thinking. The small ones are stringy, but with potatoes and hot sauce a dog is really tasty. What do you people mean when you say "good dog?"

Randy February 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm

Cats first…

Robert Cote February 11, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Pets should be medically deductible wellness expenses. Of course we can't go there because the counter would be that given the often infuriating blood pressure rising posts seen here Cafe Hayek would be rightly taxed into oblivion.

Seriously, what people fail to account for with things like SUVs is marginal incremental utility. Took some kids to Disneyland yesterday. 8 passengers (incl driver) and a three row Expedition. 18.4mpg and one parking space. 147 passenger miles per gallon. 2 Priuses costing 3x as much and taking up two spaces would do the same.

olivier blanchard February 11, 2008 at 5:12 pm

That would be assuming a cause-and-effect relationship between pet dogs' "needs" and a market created to distribute meat products not really suitable for human consumption.

Fact: If dogs didn't eat slaughterhouse leftovers, where would they go? Would we just throw millions of pounds of scrap meat every year? That's wasteful. If you're a company that produces meat, what are your options: 1) Throw it away. 2) Sell it as a commodity feed additive. 3) Sell it as moist or dry pet food for a premium.

The profitability of selling this "meat" to unsuspecting pet owners as a premium product (oh the irony) is a whole lot greater than selling it as feed for pork, poultry and other meat production operations.

The environmental impact is purely caused by overpopulation and an inability by fat Americans to stop stuffing their faces with more and more food. This isn't a dog-caused problem anymore than it is an agribusiness-caused problem.

This post isn't serious, is it?

Martin Brock February 11, 2008 at 6:06 pm

Cats first…

Dogs are bigger and fart more.

Dram_man February 11, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Living here in Korea I will tell you dogs are actually a pretty good source of protein. No joke, it tastes like lean beef. (I can't wait for the dog lovers to read that one)

We could always make the same point with a different argument. Just think of the environmental impact of shaving. Think of all the fossil fuel burned in the mining, production, and shipping of blades. Then all the hydrocarbons and other gasses in the production of aerosol shaving foam. Then think of all the water wasted in the act of shaving.

And what is the point of all this, nothing but cosmetic. I think the environmental movement should start protests outside Gillette now.

Dram_man February 11, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Oh, and "The other Eric" the best way to eat dog is actually with a mix of mild hot sauce, chopped sesame leaves, and minced ginger. (Why do I feel like Jonathan Swift all of a sudden)

muirgeo February 11, 2008 at 9:29 pm

"Which do you think takes a bigger toll on the environment, owning a dog, or owning an SUV? My bet would be on the dog. I'm thinking of all of the resources that go into dog food."

Arnold Kling

I don't remember fighting any trillion dollar wars over dog food.

I'm also quite sure my dog doesn't disproportionately cause asthma flare ups in my neighbors kids.

Sam February 11, 2008 at 9:48 pm

I don't buy the dog food argument. It strikes me that a lot of the protein that ends up in dog food is food processing left overs. There are many parts of the cow you can't sell to other humans but that a dog would love.

FreedomLover February 11, 2008 at 9:54 pm

muirgeo – always sticking your Iraq agenda into everything. Typical sign of a mentally unstable person.

Doug Ransom February 11, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Well, my SUV probably costs me $70 a week in premium gas, $5,000 a year in depreciation, and $2,00 in insurance.

I imagine a dog only costs $25 or $50 a week in dog food and $1000/year (average) for vet bills.

In a recent EconTalk episodes it is argued that price is the best estimate of the resources that go into stuff, so if I took the bus, I could use the savings to own several dogs.

I have a sneaking suspicion that my impact on the planets resources is pretty much based on how much I earn and it doesn't really matter whether I drive a Prius or an SUV; everything I earn is eventually redistributed through spending on resources, gifting which is spent on resources, or taxation which is spent on resources.

muirgeo February 11, 2008 at 10:21 pm

muirgeo – always sticking your Iraq agenda into everything. Typical sign of a mentally unstable person.

Posted by: FreedomLover

When talking about the societal cost of dogs and SUV's to ignore the war cost is sheer ignorance. And if you are stupid enough and gullible enough to believe the war in Iraq has something to do with terrorism that's a sign of a mental problem.

mark seery February 11, 2008 at 10:49 pm

Dogs may or may not be the right analogy. But that's not the point of the essay. The point is what evidence is there that the agenda being claimed is not just an anti-industry agenda, i.e. that there are no sacred cows.

FreedomLover February 11, 2008 at 10:51 pm


You're the one putting words into people's mouths. I accused you of being mentally unstable for inserting Iraq into every single fucking thread. Just be gone troll!

brotio February 11, 2008 at 10:57 pm

"I don't remember fighting any trillion dollar wars over dog food." – Murthaduck ("the children they've killed in cold blood")

I didn't realize that His Holiness The Divine Prophet of the Church of AGW: Algore I, has spent a trillion dollars in his war against SUVs.

Ken February 11, 2008 at 11:11 pm


I can't think of any trillion dollar wars being fought over SUV's, either (or oil if that's what you're really talking about). What does your comment mean?


Sam Grove February 11, 2008 at 11:41 pm

It would be best if you just ignore "freedom lover", aka Eric Dondero. Please…just do as I say.

FreedomLover February 12, 2008 at 12:15 am

Sam: are you just a poo-poo head?

Hans Luftner February 12, 2008 at 12:48 am

Muirgeo, while I agree the invasion of Iraq is an expensive atrocity (to put it kindly) I wouldn't blame it on the SUVs. I wouldn't even blame it on the oil, even if you believe it was a war for oil.

GuyF February 12, 2008 at 2:37 am

Muirgeo: What Arnold King is saying is that the cost in energy of owning a dog is *greater than* (or at least comprarable to) the marginal of having an SUV instead of normal car. So if Iraq's all about oil you should be blaming people who own dogs as much as people who own SUV's.

muirgeo February 12, 2008 at 2:59 am

I'm not too interested in discussing this with anyone who commented on my comments. If you want to believe the cost of dogs is equivalent to the cost of our oil dependency, if you want to believe Iraq had nothing to do with oil, and that oil has nothing to do with SUV's, if you want to believe a million Iraqis died and 4,000 American soldiers died because of fight against terrorism, if you want to pretend 1 trillion dollars ids no big deal, if you want to believe that public transportation and electric cars lost out to the internal combustion engine on a market basis, if you want to believe the car you drive has little to do with global warming or kids and asthma….go right ahead.

Hans Luftner February 12, 2008 at 3:35 am

Muirgeo, you either didn't read my post or you just completely failed to understand it.

I can play your game too: so if you want to hate puppies go right ahead.

brotio February 12, 2008 at 3:42 am

What's that famous quote by Vidyohs?

"If it walks like a fourteen-year-old girl, talks like a fourteen-year-old girl, and cries like a fourteen-year-old girl, it's a duck."

I wonder what made me think of that? :p

vidyohs February 12, 2008 at 6:29 am

"if you want to believe that public transportation and electric cars lost out to the internal combustion engine on a market basis, if you want to believe the car you drive has little to do with global warming or kids and asthma….go right ahead.

Posted by: muirgeo | Feb 12, 2008 2:59:21 AM"

muirduck muirduck muirduck, displaying such profound ignorance should at least embarass you, but no of course not, being a socialist evangelical means never having to be embarassed for being stupid.

Really muirduck, all prodding a toe at your ignorance aside, can you seriously convince yourself that when the auto was introduced to America (circa 1910) that public transportation lost out to it because of a oil baron conspiracy. God knows there was just so much public transportation between the farm and the city then.

mark seery February 12, 2008 at 6:42 am

>> God knows there was just so much public transportation between the farm and the city then. <<

To be fair, many towns came into existence because of rail. But everyone knows cars replaced horses not public transportation – a clear case of substitution. Is the buggy whip not the most used metaphor in the business world.

Why do people believe otherwise? So they can rationalize the morality of believing:

"We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Mcwop February 12, 2008 at 8:47 am

if you want to believe that public transportation and electric cars lost out to the internal combustion engine on a market basis

Those did lose on a market basis, and government policy failure basis.

If I take public transport to work it costs $3 and takes one hour. If the weather is bad then I get soaked too switching from bus, to subway, to shuttle – yes my company has to provide the part for the last mile. If I drive it costs about $2.80, and takes me 20 minutes. This is true of about 4,500 people that work at my company.

The electric car is useless without also having a gas engine. You use the charge to go short distances, and when that charge runs out you use gas. The California EV-1 could only go about 70-100 miles (gas cars can go 4x the distance, and there are lots of gas stations, and no charge times). Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran in his book Power to the People" chronicled the nightmare of using one, fi8nding a place to charge it etc….

Do you want me to start on bad urban tax policy, and poor provision of services that caused urban sprawl, and the need for more cars and roads?

vidyohs February 12, 2008 at 9:08 am

mark seery,

I see you get the point.

Of course many towns came into existence because of rail but that just begs the point. As you said the internal combustion engine (ICE) didn't replace public transportation or sideline the electric auto because of evil capitalist pigs. The ICE achieved supremacy because of choice.

It is also true however that all rail lines did attempt to go through, or connect, already existing towns because of the market potential.

Just as I said there wasn't a lot of public transportation between the farm and the town, or between most towns (until the bus powered by the ICE). Even in the arena of public transportation the ICE provided a convenience and flexibility unmatched even today.

Put simply, the ICE provided the consumer with exactly what the consumer wanted which was freedom of movement coupled with great potential for work enhancement.

Along with all those nonexistent rail and bus lines in the early period there was also a dirth of electrical power plants from which to draw energy to charge a battery; and, after all Joe-Bob Smith didn't have one at his ranch house in rural Iowa and none of his neighbors did either.

Amazing things was that Joe-Bob Smith did have some 5 gallon cans to store gas in. That meant he could go and come quickly when he wanted to or as needed.

"Why sonny, I can remember clear as day back in 1946 when my daddy took us to the beach which was forty miles away…..why he just drove that old gas hog right by that shiny new mono-rail terminal there in Brazoria, where that slick train stopped on its journey 'tween Houston and Freeport and we kids just up and asked him, "Daddy why you driving this smoke belching old gas hog when we could be riding that pretty train?"; and Daddy said to us, "Mostly cause you kids are dreaming, that train ain't there!"

Train wasn't there, but the ICE was.

Electrical generation station wasn't there, but the ICE was.

Then of course to nail it down we can also testify that the generation of electrical power, especially back in the days, was certainly more dirty than the gasoline engines.

The problem of muirduck's is, as I have stated before, an ignorance so deep and so wide that it mimics stupidity, and everything he writes is reflected back to us through that distorted prisim of stupidity. Reality goes in and socialist distortion comes out.

All with zero embarassment.

Keith February 12, 2008 at 9:26 am

Quote from muirgeo: "… if you want to believe the car you drive has little to do with global warming or kids and asthma….go right ahead."

Thank you, finally something we can agree on.

I'll go you one better. If you believe all those bad things about cars and global warming and asthma and oil and dogs, etc., and you want to do something about them, then go right ahead. Just leave my wealth and life, and that of anybody else that doesn't agree with you, out of your silly crusade. Stop trying to use the guns and coercion of the government to steal and plunder from those who don't agree with you.

If these things you believe are really that terrible, then you shouldn't have any problems getting people to just do what you want voluntarily. As you said "go right ahead".

shawn February 12, 2008 at 10:31 am

cafe: "[libertarian/free market position]>[existing problem in the world]"

some commentors: "[existing problem in the world/halliburton/iraq war/global warming]=[libertarian/free market position]"

">" != "="

Sam Grove February 12, 2008 at 12:56 pm

The railroads lost out to highways, cuz the government built lots of them, then had to bail out railroads when trucks began to transport goods.

Some solar scientists are saying that climate warming will peak soon then begin to cool due to solar cycles. Maybe in ten years the government will encourage CO2 emission.

Sam Grove February 12, 2008 at 1:08 pm


Seeing that you enjoy beating up on, uh, collectivists, tell me: is it purely for personal gratification, retribution, or if you think there is some productive effect?

What do you want to achieve through your efforts?

shawn February 12, 2008 at 1:35 pm

sam, thanks for asking that question. I've wondered the same occasionally, and thought that some good points have been lost due to vitriol.

Python February 12, 2008 at 7:19 pm


I am wondering why you ask vidyohs this question? Is it for personal gratification or do you think there is some productive effect?

And, shawn, you are welcome in advance.

muirgeo February 12, 2008 at 8:12 pm

EVERY time one of you goes to buy a car you WILL now ask yourself what choice you have? Are you a "free man" choosing what kind of car you drive. Or are you a mindbot who thinks he has the liberty to buy any car he wants not realizing everyone is an internal combustion machine.

When you got to the gas station from now on, EVERY time you will ask yourself…is this what a free man does…choose between Shell or Mobile gas….or as I suspect is this what an Orwellian character does who thinks he is free but lives in a fog a deception???

Gil February 12, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Well muirgeo you forgotten to mention the demise of the steam car. Here an article of what really happened to the steam car (i.e. no conspiracy).

On the other who's to say the electric cars are dead or gone:

P.S. I think the problem of electric cars is the battery cost is still too high.

vidyohs February 12, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Sam Grove,

I gotta tell you I am more than a little surprised.

I am tired so I'll make this the short answer for now.

Is there a productive effort in my "beating up" on socialists/communists/democrats/liberals/progressives? Well yes. If no other reason than this: When I was a little child of a year old our family was on a walk through the Texas woods and I spotted a bright copper colored serpent and I pointed and said, "Yedility (or some sort)"

And, my Dad said, "No that's a copperhead snake, very deadly bad bad bad." And, he then killed it.

Early lesson there, Sam. Call it what it is and there is no misunderstanding or miscommunication, then get rid of it.

Collectivist = copperhead snake, very deadly bad bad bad.

My productive effort is to never let a collectivist sneak in under the radar. I will identify them, call them out, and point out the stupidity of things like those that muirduck says.

Long answer tomorrow morning if you need more.

muirgeo February 12, 2008 at 10:45 pm

My productive effort is to never let a collectivist sneak in under the radar.

Posted by: vidyohs


You are a marginal character in our society. We aren't sneaking under any radar. We are out in the streets organizing and changing the direction of this country. And the last time you sat me down to a debate I distinctly remember you tucking tale and yelp, yelp, yelping off.

Python February 12, 2008 at 11:20 pm

"We are out in the streets organizing and changing the direction of this country."

Sounds like something Obama would say – "change".

Here are some other Obama quotes: "The US is the greatest nation on earth, let's change that."

"The US has one of the highest standards of living on the planet, let's change that."

"The US has the best health care, best technology and the best universities, let's change that too."

"The terrorists who were once multiplying and plotting destruction during the Clinton years, but are now scattered under the Bush years and severely weakened with no nation-state to find protection, let's change that."

"A recent Gallup poll said over 80% of Americans were satisfied with their position in life, let's change that."

"If anyone wants change, I've got a bunch of quarters. I'm looking specifically for one dollar bills."

brotio February 12, 2008 at 11:44 pm

I remember that debate between Murthaduck and Vidyohs. It went something like: "quack, quack, quack, quack… SO THERE!"

After I caught my breath from laughing so hard at Murthaduck's belief that it won the debate, I realized that Murthaduck finally said something that is probably accurate:

"We are out in the streets organizing and changing the direction of this country."

It does appear right now that those who believe that group wants trump individual rights outnumber those who believe the opposite.
Covetousness has been a human vice since the dawn of time, but Americans devised a Constitution that kept the covetous at bay. At least until 'we the people' stupidly gave them the right to tax our income.

swami February 13, 2008 at 12:08 am

This is still assuming that Arnold is right about dog being a bigger toll on the environment than a SUV. Is there a reason for us to believe that this is the case?

TokyoTom February 13, 2008 at 6:03 am

Russell, what at all about Kling's post do you find "very nice"?

It offers no useful analysis on externalities, and is a thinly disguised partisan attack on those pesky and despicable enviros. One or two of his commenters take him up on his eliminationist suggestion.

Pretty revolting, IMHO.

vidyohs February 13, 2008 at 6:20 am


brotio is exactly right. We had no debate because you refused to address the issue you chose. Your typical distortion of reality through your socialist prisim.

Yep, you're right your kind is meeting and out in the streets, not from any sense of rationale or intelligence; but, strictly from the promise of a bigger teat for you useless scum to suck on. You suffer no embarassment at being a parasite, supporting parasites, and nurturing more parasites.

It is the mind of a village idiot that is proud of a parasite.

Carl February 13, 2008 at 12:39 pm

To make a dog takes two dogs doing what comes naturally. To make an SUV takes over a ton of steel, glass, rubber and lead. A dog eats food, much of it scraps as noted earlier. An SUV eats oil, which runs out as we feed it to our cars, trucks and SUVs. If an SUV is fed ethanol instead, then each 25 gallon fill-up takes as much food as would feed one person for a year. SUVs also require highways and parking lots, with accompanying storm water management problems.

Clearly, dogs have less environmental impact than SUVs.

The Dirty Mac February 13, 2008 at 4:15 pm

"is this what a free man does…choose between Shell or Mobile gas…."

Dude, I buy my gas from the Venezuelan governnment.

Russ Nelson February 15, 2008 at 8:53 am

The ICE killed the trolley. In part due to sunk cost of the car making the incremental cost of a trip less than the trolley fare. In part due to shorter trip. In part due to single seat door to door. People chose, muirduck disagrees with their choices. Solution, according to our local waterfoul? Less consumer choice, more collective decisioon-making.

Bob Smith February 16, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Environmentalists are, frequently, the very same set of people that advocate the extermination of pets. Not in so few words, of course, and usually not for supposed environmental reasons. They say people shouldn't own animals, just like people shouldn't own other people. The obvious result of such a policy would be extermination of said animals.

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