The OSCAR Award-Winning documentary The Cove and the documentary The End of the Line exposed the degradation of the oceans caused by the fishing industry. Both films raised consumer awareness; yet the pet food industry is often overlooked as a major source of fish consumption. While many pet foods utilize fishmeal, cat food manufacturers use large quantities of forage fish to produce canned cat food. Forage fish include sardines, anchovies, and herring – fish eaten by predator fish like tuna, birds, and mammals.
According to a study that appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics in October 2008, the pet food industry gobbles up about 2.48 million tonnes of forage fish each year to produce canned cat food. That stat excludes fishmeal used to produce dog food, dry cat food and fish food. While organizations like PETA contend that cats can thrive on a vegetarian diet, expert groups advocate for a meat-based diet to meet their nutritional requirements. So how can we rectify our cats’ dietary needs with the ocean’s degradation?
Pet food manufacturers are attempting to answer that question.
Last month Mars, Incorporated – makers of WHISKAS brand cat food – announced their commitment in Europe to introduce petfood certified by the Marine Stewardship Council by the end of 2010. The company is working in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to develop its fish sustainability commitment, which will roll out across all their pet food by 2020.
“There is no quick fix to this problem, but when companies as influential as Mars take a leadership role, it is great news for the world’s oceans,” said Jason Clay, Senior Vice President Market Transformation, WWF U.S.
The program’s goals are to use only fish from 100 percent sustainable wild catch and sustainable aquaculture sources, to replace all wild catch whole fish and fish fillet with sustainable fish by-products and sustainable aquaculture, and to use only sustainable alternatives to marine fish ingredients.
Other pet food manufacturers like The Honest Kitchen announced similar products.