, May 24, 2024

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Composting: The Future in Pet Burial

  •   5 min reads
Composting: The Future in Pet Burial
by Mariana Burgos

Pets are not just considered the owners’ “owned creatures” in the eyes of many pet owners. When the time comes for these creatures to die away from old age, disease, or accidents, owners find it difficult to simply accept their passing because they are treated more like family members than pets.

For pet owners who cherish their animals as family members, having to say goodbye to a beloved pet is never an easy thing. When a child owns a pet, they typically ask their parents or guardians to take care of it when the creature dies. With adults, a lot of people would have to handle it on their own. It is equally challenging to achieve as when a human member of your family passes away.

Headstones of dead pets. (istockphoto-140460114. Photo taken from iStock)

As a kid, I was brought up to “bury my own” (pet). I found that the chore got a little simpler to handle as I grew older. It is possible that I have become accustomed to it because I have been doing it myself for so long. To do so, though, still hurts. Because of this, it would undoubtedly be of great aid to a pet owner if he had an alternative that was readily available and allowed him to receive a lot of help in organizing the burial.

In the old days, people in the Philippines buried their deceased pets simply in their backyard. They dig a hole large and deep enough for the carcass and, then, once they have put the body in, they cover it back up with the dirt they dug out of it. That is all there is to it. It is simple, not to mention, economical, too. But it is too painful for the (loving) owners and that is what makes it difficult to do so. But also, to those who cannot really dig well, it is a genuinely a big problem. Well, nowadays, one has other options.

According to Enn Santos in her article, “What are your options when your fur baby dies? Here’s where you can have them cremated or buried” (14 July 2021), there are two options available in the country. The most common is pet cremation. The other option is simply pet burial, as is, in pet cemeteries. But other people will do the burying for you. You, the owner, will be able to grieve your loss properly and rest well afterwards. Not too many options there, I must say.

In other countries, mainly, the US and Europe, “composting” is another option offered. And it is the most environment-friendly of all the options there are. Sarah Berman tells of a farm in the US that wants to compost other people’s dead pets. In her article, “This Farm Wants to Compost Your Dead Pets” (5 October 2017), she says Rooted Pets is a project proposed and created by Paul Tschetter and his partner at a veterinary conference held on one weekend in Tacoma. This project offers the option to compost pet owners’ dead pets and returns the soil to owners after six-to-eight weeks.

Hands carry a handful of compost soil with a plant sprouting from it. (depositphotos_18800063-stock-photo Photo taken from Depositphotos)

The Bellevue-based company of Paul Tschetter and his partner composts your pet for eight weeks, converting the leftovers into nutrient-rich organic soil. Compared to burying an animal in the backyard, it is entirely legal and actually more environmentally friendly according to Eric Wilkinson in his article, “Composting your pet? Yes, it’s a thing” (19 March 2018). He says Tschetter claims that “backyard options” are susceptible to animal scavenging and the spread of disease. And that their system is impervious to such threats. Tschetter says it sustains temperatures exceeding EPA guidelines, and it stabilizes the consequent compost.

One pet owner’s positive testimonial of the result of Tschetter’s system is featured in Wilkinson’s article. Pet owner Laura MacDonald had her furry best friend of 16 years, Koda, turned into compost. Laura plans to use Koda (compost) to plant a tree. She told Wilkins she gets comfort in planting a tree with Koda’s compost, caring for it, watching it grow, and seeing other animals benefit from it. She says she is able to move on with the thought.

Meanwhile, E.B. Bartels, with her article, “Ashes to Ashes, Pet to Plant— Composting is a surprisingly tender thing to do with your dead pet.” (2 August 2022), features Melissa Naranjo Hoyos and Daniel Correa Jaramillo, co-founders of the start-up Pleia, located outside of Medellin, Colombia, worked together on a burial alternative that was biosecure, energy-efficient, and safe for the environment (no atmospheric emissions and no risk of pathogens). As a result of studying the natural process of a body decomposing after death, they developed a method for making organic compost from pet corpses.

Bartel says that the pair’s method was a result of their thesis that won the prize for excellence from their university. The two insisted that it should not just be “stored in a library” but taken into the real world. Bartel says that when Pleia originally began, Naranjo Hoyos and Correa Jaramillo composted 100 pets in total, starting with animals owned by their friends and family. Today, they can compost up to 600 animals per month from all across the nation. When a pet is composted, the owner has two options: either they want the soil returned to them in a pot with the plant of their choice, a plant specifically created in the composted soil, or they want the dirt added to Pleia’s garden, much like they may want to bury their pet in a cemetery.

A furmom embraces her pet dog. (istockphoto-1184184070. Photo taken from iStock)

Bartel shows that according to studies on human burials, varnish from coffins can frequently contaminate the soil and chemicals like formaldehyde can damage groundwater. Composting has also become a profitable business model and helps dissipate the concentration of euthanasia solutions better than merely burying. None of those things is a problem with composting, which also uses less fuel than cremation and occupies less space over the long term than burial.

Personally speaking, I learned of this composting alternative some years back even with dead humans. And I have been advocating for it ever since. I believe this is what everyone should strive to head for in terms of development with disposing of our dead because it is what we should all be in the end. Simply said, composting is carrying out what nature intended, i.e., converting one sort of life into another.

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She is a solo parent for 15 years now because she is the wife of a desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.

This article also appears in the Manila Standard

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