Seems some greens hate animals and see them as the cause of climate change. While Heather Mills promotes her extreme anti meat views, Rosie Boycott in the Evening Standard suggested we eat our pets to save the planet. She has a point, dogs do consume a lot of food, fart a lot, smell and bite postmenâs legs. So if you want to be green, throw Fido on the barbecue and put Snowball the cat in a curry.
Somehow I think this anti meat approach wonât win over many punters. So what you need is an easier target. Something not cuddly or sweet. And a few bits of science thrown in. What this amounts to is âblack marketingâ, the art of using marketing techniques to promote a hidden agenda.
Now many people may have picked up a small and fashionable trend at the moment to blame cows for global warming because of methane. Yep, these poor things make for an easy target as they canât answer back and due to a lot of apathy tend not to protest their innocence. Unlike Land Rover Freelander drivers, who produce the same effect as a cow if they drive 30 miles a day from the suburbs to the city office. Never mind the fact that the facts are rarely a concern of those, like Mills, pushing a left wing vegan viewpoint, lets just demonise cows and suggest everyone eats rice. Well except rice, pulses, cabbage and a load of other vegetarian options arenât good for the planet either as they produce methane too (Iâll avoid puns about hot air). Let me explain.
First you need to be aware that there is so much bull out there itâs hard to sort the facts from the farts. With so much spin and even distortion of science I ended up on science forums to find out he truth about methane, well as good as I can get.
The pitch, put by some, is that cows produce methane (CH4) which is 20 times worse than CO2. Not incorrect. Thereâs actually 220 times more CO2 than CH4 in the atmosphere and CO2 accounts for just 0.038% of the atmosphere (Wikipedia facts). What isnât correct is The Vegan Societyâs poster as it shows the rear of a cow – 95% of methane actually comes out of their mouth. Of course they arenât the only animals who produce methane, so why not pick on camels, giraffes, gazelles, stags, water buffalos, yaks, elephants, gorillas, even Bambi, the list is endless. âKill em allâ I hear Mills shout.
Surely one of the biggest dangers to the worldâs poor are those who are corrupting the real issues and pursuing their own personal, often distorted, agenda. Sometimes they are just misinformed, in some cases they are arrogantly after their own thing and exploiting fears over climate change. More dangerously, when the actions needed are put in the hands of politicians then we are almost guaranteed a disaster. In the Havas Global Media Study, only 11% of people thought politicians were doing enough. Weâd probably be better off if they did nothing and left the better informed people to sort it out.
To quote from a real scientist, Dr Martin Hodson (Principal Lecturer in Environmental Biology at Oxford Brookes University) âVery few scientists nowadays deny the fact of climate change though high profile is often given to contrary opinions, which usually come, often obscurely, from vested interests.â
Of course the attack on meat eating falls down when you consider that a lot of cows arenât used for meat but for pulling ploughs, carts and such like â in India the cow is sacred so never eaten. And who really pays if we do reduce meat eating? 75 per cent of animal methane emissions came from developing countries like India and Brazil. As if often the case, the wealthy middle classes preach policies that effect the poor most.
And another thought, eat less meat means you need to eat more veg, which is going to be grown where?
Lets pause for a short science fact break. Why do cows produce so much methane (though not as much as weâre led to believe)? Ryegrass is the answer. Feed them on crap grass they produce lots of methane, but on a better quality feed it reduces. Add garlic and it reduces more. Or fish oil. Park them in sheds and you can collect the methane as fuel. They are now even breading cows that produce less methane, so the problem isnât hard to reduce. But so often the spin doctors focus on the problem not the real solution. Itâs like suggesting the best way to stop teenage pregnancy is to stop people having sex when what you need is free contraception and education.
But what anti meat campaigners arenât telling you is that the sea, rivers, volcanoes, mud flats, earthâs crust and rain forests, yep rain forests â almost everywhere youâll find rotting vegetation produces masses of methane â produces masses of the stuff. Itâs called nature. And rice padi fields produces almost 100m tonnes a year.
Thereâs another fact thatâs conveniently ignored, methane breaks down in the atmosphere far faster than CO2.. Methane in the atmosphere is eventually oxidized, producing carbon dioxide and water. As a result, methane in the atmosphere has a half life of seven years.
And if collected, it makes a great fuel, so less reliance on unsustainable fuels. Itâs an untapped resource, a natural gas.
There are solutions, a methane-consuming microorganism has been discovered that lives in geothermal areas. The bacterium could one day be used to reduce methane gas emissions from landfills and cut methane emissions from geothermal power stations.
Scientists in Scotland, the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, have reduced CH4 from cows by70%.
According to the Centre for Global Food Issue, âNew Beef Eco-Report: Pound-for-pound, beef produced with grains and growth hormones produces 40% less greenhouse gas emissions and saves two-thirds more land for nature compared to organic grass-fed beef.â More than 95% of beef produced in the United States is raised on grain-based diets but only accounts for 1.8% of total greenhouse gases produced in the United States
If we all stop eating meat it isnât going to save the planet anymore than fitting a single low energy light bulb will. What we need is far more intelligent and dramatic action.
Of course this isnât the first time greens have advocated eating less meat. For 25 years Stanley Owen Green (known as the Protein Man) walked up and down Oxford Street carrying a placard that advocated âLess Passion from Less Protein. Less Fish, Meat, Bird, Cheese Egg, Peas, Beans, Nuts and Sitting.â Green arguing that protein made people lustful and aggressive, his solution was âprotein wisdom,â a low-protein diet for âbetter, kinder, happier peopleâ. His booklet, âEight Passion Proteins with Careâ sold 87,000 copies.
And if you thought that was odd ball, consider this – in 2003, the government of New Zealand proposed a flatulence tax. No surprise it was not adopted because of public protest.