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Posts Tagged ‘livestock’

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

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notfunny

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

Have you heard that cow farts are causing global warming?

Actually, 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. 

In fact, 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, due to their unique enteric fermentation digestive process. (source:  Ermias Kebreab of the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment).  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.

The answers to the commonly asked questions below will help dispel the inevitable joke/comment on our gassy footprint.

How many livestock are there?

  • 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.
  • 10 billion animals are raised and slaughtered each year in the USA (30 animals for each American)

How much do livestock eat?

  • Each day, a cow eats about 20 pounds of grain, 40 – 60 pounds of ensilage, 30 pounds of hay and drinks about 15 – 25 gallons of water

Do they poop a lot?

  • 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.

It’s 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 the 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.    So please don’t let anyone keep you from holding in farts (it’s bad for you) or keep you from enjoying beans.

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.   Guess you can average it out.

picture source

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.

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With the intense focus on man-made emissions triggering global climate chaos, surely the leaders of the world would prioritize developing policies that limit livestock production (beef, pork, chicken), the #2 cause of global warming? (2006 FAO, Energy Production is #1)

It turns out, politicians don’t like to touch this subject, especially in the United States.  A 2007 Farm Bill amendment that would have cut subsidies for meat and dairy industries was rejected by House Democrats, because House Leader Nancy Pelosi feared Democratic representatives would risk losing their seats in the 2008 elections.

As for the European Union, which many say is “leading the way” for climate change reform,  politicians are almost just as hesitant.  The EU recently issued a warning about the impact of livestock on the environment while omitting text calling for a worldwide reduction in meat consumption.  However, no direct action was taken that might help to reduce meat consumption or the number of livestock.

Governments are taking no steps to influence the individual’s decision to eat less meat.  Wait.  Let me take that back.  The government IS influencing you.  It is subsidizing meat to allow it to be very cheap and very affordable, at the cost of our environment and health, with our taxpayer money.

But who’s complaining?  How much of the public cares?

Where is the rallying cry from progressives, global warming activists or environmentalists? Where…is Al Gore?  Hollywood?

Many leaders have helped to put global warming in the spotlight and to “go green”.  And for that we owe our gratitude.  But many of these same “leaders” have failed to act and speak on the environmental impact of livestock.  It is no wonder politicians don’t care to make this an issue.

We have exempted agriculture from the climate protection strategy in order to limit the number of potential sources of conflict,” says a senior member of the staff of Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a member of the Social Democrat Party (SPD).

So why aren’t politicians including livestock in climate policy?  Why does a salad cost more than a Big Mac?

Because there is a need for new leaders and catalysts for change. People need to see and hear, how and why, hundreds millions have already made the choice to adopt a low-meat or no-meat diet.

Over the next five years, US farms will receive 288 billion in federal subsidies.  The graph below displays the percentage of subsidies addressed to the different groups of the food pyramid.

pyramid1source: PCRM

Ending or at least significantly reducing subsidies for meat and dairy industries, will force them to bear their own resource and environmental costs, and to cope with less funds to market their goods to the public, or to lobby politicians.

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February 4th 2009 – The EU has taken a lead role in calling for attention to emissions caused by global livestock.  The 27-nation Parliament said the livestock industry is responsible for “substantial” emissions, and said that “changes in behavior by consumers” should be accompany goals to cap industrial greenhouse gasses.

However, they stopped short of including the actual text that called for a cut in worldwide meat consumption.

-Bloomberg News

It’s great to hear that the EU has recognized livestock as a serious greenhouse gas emitter.  But when will the EU actually take action to reverse the continued rise in global meat consumption?  When will we see significant reductions in subsidies to animal agriculture to more seriously discourage high meat consumption?

Food for Change has a great blog entry on the EU’s omission, including a comparison of the actual text of the proposed amendment and the final text.

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