DEAR READERS: This is a sensitive topic that all animal lovers must consider, since our animal companions do not live forever.
In the old days, we would bury our pets on our properties and let them return to the earth, fertilizing our trees and other plants. Such disposals are now prohibited in most communities for sanitary and public health reasons. More pet owners are now choosing to have their animals cremated (paying less for group cremation with other peoples' animals), with fewer opting for burial at pet cemeteries. Several years ago, I recall being shocked to see nondegradable pet coffins for sale at a pet-product expo!
Now, another option is becoming available: It has a lower carbon footprint than cremation, and is environmentally enriching, rather than polluting and contributing to climate change. It's called NOR: natural organic reduction.
According to agreenerfuneral.org, NOR is "the contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil. This process uses large tanks, containers or similar vessels to hold human remains together with straw, wood chips, and/or other natural materials for a period of time of about four to six weeks." NOR is now legal in six states: Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California and New York.
So far, neither the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories nor the American Veterinary Medical Association is advocating NOR for companion animals, although it is accepted for the mass disposal of farmed animals. But an increase has been reported in pet owners' demand for aquamation, a process also known as alkaline hydrolysis. (See "A veterinarian's role in pet after-death care" by Coco Lederhouse, JAVMA, April 23.)
Educational materials related to end-of-life decision-making, pet loss, grief, euthanasia, companion animal aftercare and disposition of remains are available on the AVMA's website: avma.org/HumaneEndings.
In my experience, in-home euthanasia after palliative care (as needed) is the least traumatic option for all involved. Providing family members, including other animal companions, the opportunity to view the body of the deceased may help facilitate the acceptance of death and alleviate the grieving process.
GOOD NEWS FOR FACTORY-FARMED ANIMALS
Animal welfare law provisions that dictate minimum enclosure standards went into effect in Massachusetts in late August, following multiple legal actions delaying its start. Other provisions of the law that are already in place include constraints on the sale of veal and requirements related to egg-laying hens. (Full story: The Sun Chronicle; Attleboro, Massachusetts; Aug. 24)
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