This cute kitten can generate enough energy to keep a 11 Watt light bulb on for about 56 hours. Image via Wikimedia
The vet did her best, but it wasn’t enough. Your hamster Dave has just passed away. How do you process the death of your favorite pet? Actually, let me be more exact: how do you process Dave’s little corpse? In the Netherlands, the vet can give you three options: burial, cremation or "the Destructor".
According to Dutch website watisdestructie.nl the Destructor is basically a sophisticated meat grinder that turns dead animals into biomass energy. Beware: The site is not for the faint hearted—it contains a video of a white horse being tossed into the colossal contraption.
Rendac Son is the company that handles all "destructions" in the Netherlands. As stated on their website they specialize in “the innovative and sustainable processing of particular organic waste and animal by-products.” In other words, they recycle dead animals. Rendac Son is a branch of Texas-based company Darling Ingredients International—a very wise name choice considering the fact that their eco-friendly industry runs on cute animals.
Rendac Son is also employed by the government to technically be a huge garbage disposal, except they deal with dead animals instead of garbage. According to Dutch law, citizens are obligated to toss horses, cows, pigs and sheep that aren’t for consuming into the Destructor. The fate of pet animals like cats and dogs is in the hands of the owner. Ellen, an employee at the animal hospital in Amsterdam explained to me that the number of people who choose the destructor isn't insignificant: “About half of Dutch pets get cremated, predominantly cats and dogs. The other half—mostly smaller pets—are processed by the government.”
I thought that was just a nice way of saying "they get chewed up by the big metal teeth of the destructor" but Rendac’s Tom Doomen explained what the process exactly entails: “The cadavers are grinded, burnt, sterilized and divided. That leaves us with water, animal meal (protein) and fat. We use the fat as fuel for our own machines and we turn the animal meal into biomass energy which we sell to energy companies.”
They generate a whole load of power too: “We annually process 400,000 tons of cadavers, from which we generate enough energy to supply 55,000 households for an entire year. That’s the equivalent of sucking 180,000 tons of carbon dioxide out the sky."
Tom was also kind enough to inform me that the horror site featuring the majestic white horse getting grinded into oblivion doesn’t belong to Rendac. “That video of the horse was a bit unnecessary, if you ask me. I heard that site was set up by an animal crematorium.”
Some animal crematoriums on the other hand, think that Rendac is covering-up the harshness of their mincing process—though you’d think the name of the machine is a bit of a give-away. SHCN Dierenuitvaart, the oldest and biggest Dutch crematorium, links to the Watisdestrictie website: “We want to be completely transparent towards the consumer, that's why we placed that link,” said Gert-Jan van Dongen, CEO of SHCN.
Van Dongen also said: “Rendac should be clear about what the destructor actually does to animals. We get phone calls every week from people who are inconsolable after finding out what happened to the cadaver of their beloved pet.”
Whatever one thinks about the crudeness of the destructor, it does generate energy from a "natural" source, while a cremation only uses energy, right? So what are we all bickering about?
“The ethical debate is an interesting one," adds van Dongen. "You could, for example, decide to put all the animals in the destructor, for the sake of the environment. But if so, why draw the line there? Rationally speaking, we could also consider throwing human corpses into the machine. But we’re not going to do that, are we?”
Who knows; Putin is turning the gas tap off and the Middle East is burning—an energy crisis could be just around the corner.