Livestock numbers game
Are cows and sheep really busy replacing aviation as the world’s No 1 climate culprit, asks The Guardian? As we have reported before, the accepted wisdom is that the world’s livestock sector is responsible for producing 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – a figure greater than the global transport sector, including aviation.
Myriad campaigners and websites all derive this figure from a single source – the report published in November 2006 by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) – Livestock’s Long Shadow. The irony is, says The Guardian, that the agenda promoted in this report is diametrically opposed to that of most “greens”, welfarists and vegans. Its authors’ mission was not to phase out or reduce meat-eating; indeed, they anticipate that world meat consumption will have doubled from 229million tonnes in 2001 to 465million tonnes by 2050. Nor do they want to see an end to factory farming. Instead, they write that “intensification and perhaps industrialisation of farming is the inevitable long-term outcome”, which can “only be achieved at the cost of pushing numerous small- and middle-scale producers out of business”.
Intensification of farming is necessary, the FAO argues, because “by far the largest share of emissions come from more extensive systems, where poor livestock holders often extract marginal livelihoods from dwindling resources”. Seventy per cent of the emissions they identify are attributable to extensive livestock, and only 30 per cent to intensive livestock.