A study initiated by Fonterra has assessed the carbon footprint of every litre of milk it processes at 940 grams of CO2 equivalent. 85 % of these emissions are produced on farm, mostly as methane and nitrous oxide. All carbon footprint calculations assume livestock emissions are greenhouse gases in the same way fossil fuel emissions are. They are quite wrong to assume this but it does not matter when comparing the carbon footprint of our animal products with other countries because all countries make the same mistake.
But it does matter when meat and dairy products are compared to other food products. Meat is said to produce 30 times the carbon emissions of a high protein vegetable such as a bean. Poultry and eggs are now recommended over cheese because they have a vastly lower carbon footprint.
This gives credence to a call to reject meat and dairy products which grows louder by the day, as demonstrated by an article in the Guardian which states;
“For decades, environmental arguments against eating meat have been largely the preserve of vegetarian websites and magazines. Just two years ago it seemed inconceivable that significant numbers of western Europeans would be ready to down their steak knives and graze on vegetation for the sake of the planet. The rapidity with which this situation has changed is astonishing.”
The concept that vegetarianism saves the world is only getting started in New Zealand but it is well established overseas.
- Paul McCartney and his two daughters are leading a campaign to make every Monday a meat free day. This is being supported by more celebrities such as Chris Martin and Sheryl Crow and will have an impact.
- The National Health Service in Britain is already removing meat from the menus in its hospitals to reduce its greenhouse gas liability.
- Camden Council in London requires its schools, care homes and council canteens to cut meat from their menus for the same reason.
- The Federal Environment Agency in Germany has called for all Germans to reserve meat for special occasions only.
- The city of Ghent in Belgium has adopted Thursday as a meat free day.
All these measures are in the name of saving the planet from global warming. I think it is fairly predictable that the Greens in NZ will one day soon be advocating for the Government to adopt some ridiculous strategy to reduce our consumption of meat and dairy products.All in the name of saving the planet of course. Already in Europe and the UK it is becoming widely accepted that reducing consumption of meat and dairy products is an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Because livestock emissions are so overstated anyone wanting to reduce their carbon footprint can offset huge amounts of fossil fuel emissions produced when they drive their cars by not eating meat one day per week. This is a joke and the stupidity of this thinking would be laughable if it were not so tragic. The tragedy being that this is going to devastate pastoral farming for no benefit to the climate, because it is only the fossil fuel emissions that do the damage.
This move away from meat and dairy products will continue to gain momentum at an alarming rate. The effects of this will be far worse than anything an emission trading scheme will bring and presents the greater danger. This threat, as with the one posed by the ETS, only exists because of the one misconception that livestock emissions and fossil fuel emissions have the same effect on the atmosphere. This we must continue to challenge.
Lastly this comment from the article in the Guardian indicates the scale of the devastation our industry faces if we continue to do nothing.
“The IPCC among other bodies has called for an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Since high levels of meat and dairy consumption are luxuries, it seems reasonable to expect livestock production to take its share of the hit. For rich western countries this would mean decreasing meat and dairy consumption to significantly less than one tenth of current levels, the sooner the better.”
I have painted quite a bleak picture because it is bleak, but let me assure you I have great confidence that we can turn this tide. Our argument is sound and has not been challenged.