An area twice the size of the UK is used to produce dry pet food for cats and dogs each year, according to research carried out by the University of Edinburgh into the global environmental impact of pet food production.
The study also found the industry emits more greenhouse gases each year than some countries, such as Mozambique and the Philippines.
Around 49m hectares of agricultural land are used annually to make dry food for cats and dogs, with annual greenhouse gas emissions found to be 106m tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Dr Peter Alexander, of the university’s School of GeoSciences and Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, said: “Even accounting for the use of by-products in pet foods, the feeding of companion animals plays a role in environmental change.
“This is a topic that has been previously overlooked, but we have shown that pets and how they are fed should be considered alongside other actions to reduce climate change and biodiversity loss.”
This research comes out after discussions regarding environmental sustainability within the pet food industry.
In a statement, the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA), said: “The pet food industry is very mindful of the role it plays in the responsible use of resources in pet food production, including minimising, wherever possible, its environmental impact.
“The pet food industry uses surplus products from the human food chain. This might include different types of meat, as well as materials like the lungs, kidneys and livers -all materials come from animals which are inspected by vets as fit for human consumption.”
They added: “Pet food manufacturers add value to these materials by using them in the production of pet food, thereby, reducing the impact on food waste, the availability of commodities and minimising the carbon footprint of producing foods specifically for use in pet food.”