Grazing livestock — and especially cattle — have taken the brunt of a lot of criticism in recent years for their impact on our environment. Specifically, many believe, cattle are a primary cause of climate change, and the only remedy is to stop eating meat.
While that theory doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny, it hasn’t stopped a parade of bloggers, activists and pseudo-experts from touting silly ideas such as Meatless Mondays. A soft-spoken Zimbabwean biologist, however, has effectively changed the conversation and helped many critics of livestock production re-examine their beliefs.
Allan Savory created the holistic management philosophy and practice and is the founder and president of the Savory Institute. The Savory Institute claims deep expertise in land management, livestock management, business development, social entrepreneurship and environmental issues. Savory has spent a lifetime studying and practicing techniques that combat desertification around the globe. In fact, he’s built a career and a business challenging what many think they know about grazing livestock — that they’re destructive to grazing land and bad for the planet.
An idea ‘worth spreading’
Allan Savory On the contrary, Savory says, livestock are a solution to climate change and an effective means by which to fight hunger, poverty and violence across much of the third world. That message gained high visibility in February when Savory spoke at the 2013 TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conference, a global set of conferences owned by the private, non-profit Sapling Foundation, formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.” Founded in 1984, TED now sponsors an annual conference in which speakers are given 18 minutes to address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture. Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Gordon Brown, Bono and many Nobel Prize winners. Savory’s idea “worth spreading” is that removing grazing animals from an ecosystem promotes desertification. Indeed, he argues, the cause of desertification is the absence of grazing animals. To heal the land and slow climate change, he says, grazing animals must be returned to areas in peril of desertification, which may include two-thirds of the world’s grasslands.
Those ideas are not just a hunch, an unproven theory that Savory promotes. He has proof, compiled over a lifetime of study and practice around the world. Specifically, Savory suggests that grazing animals be used in a management-intensive or rotational grazing system