A United Nations report has identified the world’s rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate, forests and wildlife. And they are blamed for a host of other environmental crimes, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs.
The new UN FAO report ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’ suggests that livestock production alone accounts for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The burning of fossil fuels to produce N fertiliser (a fuel-intensive process), energy used in the farming and transport of livestock and meat, and clearing of vegetation for ranching/grazing accounts for 9% of the world’s carbon emissions. In addition, ruminant digestion also accounts for a third of methane emissions, a much more powerful greenhouse gas. These emissions from livestock are larger than the global emissions from transport, and the UN predicts that the rising demand for meat will more than double the global impacts of livestock by 2050.
A Soil Association spokesman said:
“This UN prediction supports the conclusion that we must reduce our meat consumption. However, a total conversion to vegetarianism is unlikely to be the answer. Pastures and mixed farming are very important for wildlife and the maintenance of a large soil bank. Although deforestation for ranching must be stopped, the ploughing up of grassland for arable production would release considerable amounts of soil carbon. A negative impact of arable production (and of white meat, which depends on cereal crops, unlike red meat, which depends on grass) is almost certainly not accounted for in this analysis. The Soil Association is advising less but better quality meat. The expansion of organic production, being free-range, more extensive, and of higher animal welfare, supports this necessary change in modern diets.”
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