To celebrate Earth Day, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals posted an article and video on its Web site with claims that meat production is the leading cause of global warming. According to PETA’s “Meat’s Not Green” video, the most effective way individuals can reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and help reduce pollution and habitat destruction as well — is by switching to a vegetarian diet.
Predictably, PETA sources the much-debated 2006 United Nations report that claimed cattle raising produces more greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation. The report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow — Environmental Issues and Options,” claims that 18 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide comes from cattle. However, data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests otherwise. According to Karen Batra, director of Public Affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, EPA data says animal agriculture does not contribute significantly to
Although the EPA’s data is specific to the
- Methane is responsible for 24 percent of anthropogenic global warming.
- Of that, ruminants are responsible for 26.4 percent of methane.
- So, ruminants are directly responsible for 6.3 percent of global warming.
Hodson says that a major problem is that the largest share of methane production is from poor countries and livestock fed on poor-quality feed. Methane from cattle can be reduced by:
- Tweaking diet and genetics.
- Increasing the digestibility of feedstuffs.
- Advanced technologies in development, such as stimulation of certain bacteria to decrease hydrogen production, decreasing certain protozoa and vaccination to reduce methanogens.
So, how would cattle raised in the
Ki C. Fanning, a livestock nutritionist with Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc., Eagle, Neb., told Drovers, “Grain is higher in digestibility than forages, and as a result, grains produce about four times less CH4 (methane) than forages. Cattle lose about 8 percent of the energy from grass to CH4 production, but only about 2 percent of the energy of feedlot diets to CH4 production.”
Hmmm. I’d say the next time the United Nations issues a statement about the evils of livestock production, they should consider including somebody on the investigative panel such as Dr. Fanning. You know, somebody who has actually worn boots through a feedlot and knows the smell of methane firsthand. As for PETA, well, I’m not sure even Dr. Fanning can help those folks. — Greg Henderson, Drovers editor.