The recent announcement of an airline devoted exclusively to pets has prompted a fair bit of press — some good, and some a tad more critical. Many pet lovers are grateful there is now a safe way for their animal companions to travel in the USA but environmentalists are calling it the most ‘ungreen’ thing they have ever heard of.

Pet Airways, an airline service for pets, is the only one of its kind in the world. The company is scheduled to transport animal companions within the USA with flights to New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

Various other airlines give the option for smaller pets to ride in the main cabin in pet travel containers that fit under the seat and some airlines allow ‘celebrity’ dogs to sit in seats with harnesses. All airlines allow dogs for the visually impaired onboard in the cabin, but the majority of pets end up travelling in the cargo hold with the baggage.

On Pet Airways the animals travel in their carrier crates in the main cabin of the plane. The pet planes are regular planes that have had all their seats and washrooms removed. A flight attendant checks on pets during the no human passenger flight. Although this is not the same as having your precious companion traveling with you, it is a much safer option than putting your pet in a cargo hold in the belly of a plane.

But back to the eco-argument that Pet Airways is ‘ungreen’.

It is an irrefutable fact that airlines (along with cars, meat, kids, etc.) are a major contributor to greenhouses gases. Although airlines are attempting to minimize their emissions through various innovations, such as removing superfluous weight (newspapers, cutlery, duty-free), flying slower and various biofuel flight experiments – which is all good news, airplane travel remains a significant contributor of CO2 to the atmosphere.

An Aviation and Global Climate Change study, from the UK-based Friends of the Earth, found air travel to be the world’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Their study indicates the world’s 16,000 commercial jet aircraft generate more than 600 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Perhaps most shocking is that “…aviation generates nearly as much CO2 annually as that from all human activities in Africa.”

People continue to fly regardless of how much information is out there about the detrimental environmental effects of flying. Just as they continue to eat meat, drive cars and procreate.

But humans, when choosing to fly, have the ability, for the most part, to travel safely in a pressurized cabin, in a comfy seat with human interaction and plenty of water and nourishment – if airline food falls into such a category. Pets on the other hand, are banished to the cargo hold where they are subjected to loud noise, a lower level of air quality and a poorer heating and ventilation system, and are often left in darkness. Some cargo bay sections have no heat or air conditioning, and they can reach extreme temperatures quickly, so it is extremely important that pets are placed in the correct cargo bay. However, just like luggage, often pets become lost or end up in different cities or towns.

Flying in a cargo hold is extremely traumatic for animals and many suffer long-term stress from the experience, explains People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The creation of a Pet Airways is therefore an animal welfare issue much more than an environmental issue. Environmentalists are missing the point of why such a service is an absolute necessity — if animals must fly, they deserve for it to be as safe, stress free and as humane as possible. Period.

Yet, it is irrefutable that airlines are major contributors to greenhouses gases and should only be used when absolutely necessary. But if you have to fly, absolutely have to travel with your animal companion, then Pet Airways is a welcome addition.

Remember though, animal loving environmentalists do have a few options when thinking about flying with their animal friends. You can leave your pet at home in the care of a trusted family member or friend. You can choose to simply not to travel in an airplane and take a vacation closer to home so your pet can come with you.

Carbon offsetting for both human and pet flights is also an option with no shortage of organizations offering to plant trees or support wind farms to alleviate your carbon flying footprint. However, this is a band-aid solution that is ineffective at best.

Charlie Kronick, head of Greenpeace's climate and energy campaign UK, said in a statement, “…there is a risk that the fashion for off-setting could actually encourage people to take flights and unnecessary journeys. The truth is, once you've put a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere there's nothing offsetting can do to stop it changing our climate.”

More and more environmentalists are opting to simply not use airplanes, in the same way some eco-individuals have chosen to give up a car or eliminate meat from their diet.

However, if humans have to transport their animal companion on an airplane, the animals deserve the right to travel in a manner that is safe and stress free.

Personally, I won’t be flying anymore and I probably wouldn’t take my pet chickens (or any other animal companion) on an airplane even if I could, but I do welcome Pet Airways to the skies, for the animals.

Valerie Williams is a writer living on Salt Spring Island with five chickens. She is the editor of GreenMuze.

Via:www.greenmuze. ??m

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