Cattle not at fault for greenhouse gases

IN THE past two or three years, cattle have been in the dock over their prominent role in the emission of greenhouse gases. However, a new report from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation into cattle farming has found cows to be almost blameless on the issue.

The study which covers all greenhouse gas emissions from dairy cattle, including milk processing, packaging, and milk transport, says this part of the livestock industry contributes only 2.7 per cent to the overall total. It also says the revised cattle figure rises to only 4 per cent if emissions related to beef eaten from dairy animals is included.

These figures are far removed from the report issued in 2006, which said the ruminant livestock sector was responsible for up to 18 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

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National Beef Association chairman Christopher Thomas-Everard fears the original flawed report is still embedded in the thinking of climate change policy makers. "It will take time, and effort, to eradicate this fundamental misconception," he said. He added he would like world, EU and UK leaders to set about a fundamental policy assessment on the influence of grazing and ruminant livestock production on climate change.

"Except in desert conditions, pasture sequesters far more carbon than is released by the ruminants grazing it," he claimed

"The revised report was produced after longstanding cattle sector complaints that the 2006 report, Livestock's Long Shadow, was unsound because it claimed cattle and pigs were the source of more environmental harm than the entire global transport system – including cars, planes, trains and ships."