Critics turn up heat on livestock emissions

Radical changes to the way people consume meat and dairy products are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, experts have warned.

Farmers, policy makers and environmental groups must end their stalemate and urgently address ways that changing patterns of both livestock consumption and production can help mitigate climate change, according to a study.

Ongoing efforts by the farming industry are not enough to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of livestock products, concludes the report by the Food Ethics Council and conservation charity WWF-UK. Consumption-based measures are vital, too.

The document highlights 27 ways of reducing GHG emissions from livestock, ranging from those that encourage consumers to eat less meat, to taxes that would result in higher prices for animal products that have higher emissions.

The study has been welcomed at the heart of government. DEFRA adviser Don Curry said: “This is a debate that is urgently needed. We need to understand much better the environmental balance sheet as far as livestock farming is concerned.”

But a separate report claims that improved farming techniques would enable grassland farmers to reduce their environmental impact while continuing to allow people to eat meat with a clear conscience.

Commissioned by the Royal Agricultural Society of England, the report hits out at critics who claim that livestock are the biggest contributors to climate change and that consumers should abandon meat-eating.

“There is a public perception, encouraged by some interest groups, that livestock farming is the major source of GHG emission in the UK,” said report author David Garwes, an independent scientist.

“There have even been calls to stop eating meat and dairy products to reduce livestock numbers. This is a gross exaggeration that must be met with a robust challenge and corrected.”

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