SumanSutra

"Am a Vegan and Green to Save the World" twitter: @sumansutra fb:sumansutra LinkedIn: sudarman email: sumansutra@gmail.com

Price of Meat


It’s upsetting and a bit disturbing that a NY Times “Green blogger” has perpetuated a claim from the Center for Consumer Freedom that there is no strong connection between meat and global warming.

The recent NY Times article titled “Meat & Climate: The Debate Continues” (which I refuse to link to) cites a press release from the CCF (a.k.a a front group for the restaurant, alcohol and tobacco industries) which used an EPA figure estimating that only 6% of US greenhouse gases are caused by agriculture production, including meat. They used this figure to argue that there is no significant connection between meat and global warming. The EPA figure stands in stark contrast to the 2006 UN FAO report (Livestock’s Longshadow) which attributes 18% of global greenhouse gases to livestock production.

However, the EPA figure omits the emissions from CO2 and land-use changes.  In contrast, the 2006 UN FAO study includes CO2, as well as methane and other greenhouse gases as a result of the entire livestock production process. EPA on Agriculture Emissions in 2006:

“Agricultural activities contribute directly to emissions of greenhouse gases through a variety of processes. This chapter provides an assessment of non-carbon-dioxide emissions from the following source categories: enteric fermentation in domestic livestock, livestock manure management, rice cultivation, agricultural soil management, and field burning of agricultural residues (see Figure 6-1). Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and removals from agriculture-related land-use activities, such as conversion of grassland to cultivated land, are presented in the Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry chapter. CO2 emissions from on-farm energy use are accounted for in the Energy chapter.”

Why the EPA chose to ignore the impact of CO2 and land-use changes, such as the deforestation of the Amazon (80% of which is attributed to livestock) is another puzzle to address.

Another commenter of the Times article adds “CCF had to go as far as misrepresenting a Bush era EPA report, that were often lower bounds or distortions of staff reports.”

In this post I wanted to give some love to Food for Change, PB&J Campaign and Veg Climate Alliance.  Each focuses their blog on the connection between meat and global warming.  I recommend them all!

Food for Change

Food for Change promotes food choices that are sustainable, ethical and environmentally responsible.

This blog from the UK has a unique focus on animal agriculture on the environment and was founded a year ago by Sophie Pritchard.  Learn about her motivations, ideas and more about the impact of livestock on global warming, the environment and health in her recent interview on Green Girls Global.  Then check out her other posts!

I became frustrated that environmental organisations continued to turn a blind eye to the environmental impact of livestock, particularly when both environmental and humanitarian organisations strongly and publicly oppose biofuels because of their environmental and social impacts when I knew that they caused only a fraction of the problems that the livestock industry does. I asked all these organisations about why they focused on biofuels, considering their impacts are the same as meat, but lower in scale. They all told me that the issue with biofuels was that they were making matters worse, whereas the devastation caused by livestock is long-standing. That didn’t seem like a good enough reason to ignore the issue to me.


PB&J Campaign

The PB&J Campaign is working to combat environmental destruction by reducing the amount of animal products people eat.

I really like how they emphasize that even a small reduction in the consumption of animal products generates significant results.

Check out the PB&J Pledge that will calculate the impact of your meals on greenhouse gas emissions, water and land based on whether or not you consume animal products.   The methodology is derived from sound scientific studies.

PB&J has a long-running blog (since April 2008) with MANY interesting posts on the impact of meat on global warming.

Graph on climate impact of meat consumption

meatgraphfull1


Veg Climate Alliance

Veg Climate Alliance, a new international alliance of vegetarian, environmental and animal rights activists and organizations, stresses that the best thing a person can do to stop global warming and its catastrophic consequences is to switch to a plant-based diet.

Mission Statement

Veg Climate Alliance exists to slow global warming by helping people access the most needed information:

a global shift to vegetarianism is necessary to avoid rapidly approaching catastrophic climatic conditions and other environmental threats.

To accomplish this awareness, we will:

  • Seek the support, advice and partnership of key groups and individuals;
  • Jointly release media statements and resolutions;
  • Jointly lobby governments and international groups, including the UN, to specifically promote the veg diet as a means to combat climate change.

In the same aim we will also provide a central information and communication hub connecting all concerned groups/organizations/communities/individuals.

It’s awesome to see an organization setup to help bring together all of the advocates and supporters of this subject to share ideas and to lobby governmental groups to promote a veg diet.  I hope to be a part of it.  See their blog, veg events listings and their forum!

updatePlease join the campaign!

Bill S. 527 gives a free pass for factory farms to pollute the air with CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide without regulation!

Farm Sanctuary has setup a form to write to your representative in Congress to vote NO on S. 527.  Please take a few minutes to voice your opposition to S. 527 to your network and Congressional representatives!

Bill S. 527 specifically includes the following text:

CERTAIN EMISSIONS FROM AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION- No permit shall be issued under a permit program under this title for any carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, water vapor, or methane emissions resulting from biological processes associated with livestock production.

Keep on the lookout for a petition soon.  Here is my personal response:

Please oppose Bill S. 527, which exempts livestock production from the Clean Air Act!

According to a 2006 UN FAO report – 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock.  This is more than the emissions from all the cars and planes in the world combined!

As global meat consumption is predicted to double by 2050, we must take significant measures to minimize livestock production, and its impact.

In addition – the UN FAO report states animal agriculture is responsible for 37% of anthropogenic methane emissions (20 times more powerful than CO2) and 65% of all nitrous oxide (296 times).

In light of the rising dangers of global climate change, the expansion of factory farming must not be left unregulated.

These farms should be expected to INVEST in better farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, like every other industrial sector.

Thank you.

More…

NY Times:  Senators Have Beef with ‘Cow Tax’

Grist: The ‘cow tax’: not now, maybe not ever

notfunny

WSJ Video:  Watch how methane is measured : Gassy Sheep Add to Global Warming

Did you hear that cow farts are causing global warming?

Contrary to popular belief, most of the methane emissions from cows and other livestock aren’t from flatulence or farts.  They’re from burping.  About 98 per cent of the methane from a cow is emitted through its mouth. (source:  Kebreab, Journal of Animal Science)

Due to their unique enteric fermentation digestive process, the average grain-fed dairy cow belches out about 500 litres of methane each day,  compared to about 600-700 litres a day per grass-fed cow, according to Ermias Kebreab of the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment near Winnipeg, Canada.  In total, livestock’s total gas emissions include 37% of all methane (20 times more powerful than CO2) and 65% of all nitrous oxide (296 times).

Yes it’s much funnier to talk about farting than burping/belching.  It certainly raises more eyebrows, which explains why many of the headlines on cattle methane go for the “farting to blame for global warming” angle instead, despite its inaccuracy.

But whether it’s farting or burping, it’s given plenty of ammunition for global warming skeptics to make light of global warming, and the research & policies that are proposed to address animal agriculture’s impact.

The statistics below will help dispel the inevitable joke/comment on our “fart footprint”, as they demonstrate why livestock produce such high levels of gas.

  • Each cow eats about 20 pounds of grain, 40 – 60 pounds of ensilage, 30 pounds of hay and drinks about 15 – 25 gallons of water a day.
  • In 2007, at any given time, there were approximately 1.3 billion cattle, 1 billion sheep, 1 billion pigs, 800 million goats and 17 billion chicken (UN FAO).  This means – one cattle for every five people, one sheep for every six, one goat for every eight, and 2.5 chickens for every person.
  • In the United States, 10 billion animals are raised and slaughtered each year (30 animals for each American).  In addition, animals raised for food produce 1.4 billion metric tons of manure, which is 130 times more excrement than the entire human population put together, for a total of 87,000 pounds per second.

When one looks at the number of animals which are eaten, and the amount of crops and energy that are required to feed them, it becomes increasingly clear that we must define the problem as rising meat consumption, not the cows themselves.  According to the UN FAO, annual global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tons in 2000 to 465 million tons in 2050.

Whenever one discusses cow farts or burps (which I suppose is an interesting conversation starter), it’s also important to understand that methane emissions from livestock are only one part of the “meat footprint”.  The emissions from the meat production process includes many other steps which generates high levels CO2.

Some of the ways which animal agriculture industry generates its CO2 emissions include:  the clearing forests for cattle grazing or planting feed (Brazilian Amazon especially), slaughtering livestock in factories, and transporting, storing and packaging the meat.  More on these other greenhouse gas producing processes another time.

For now, please don’t let the global warming skeptics keep you from holding in farts (it’s bad for you) or keep you from enjoying beans.

picture source

correction:  A previous version cited that the average dairy cow belches out about 100 to 200 liters of methane each day, according to Michael Abberton, a scientist at the UK-based Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research.  But who do you believe?

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