March 24, 2010
World meat production is not the major contributor to green house gas emissions claimed by certain sectors of the green and vegetarian movements . Experts at The UN food and Agriculture Organisation have conceded that earlier accusations of an 18 per cent share of total AGHG were considerably inaccurate. Writers of the FAO’s famous – some may say infamous – 2006 ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’ report now admit to statistical bias in their analysis.
While throwing every factor they could think of into the case against the meat industry, they carefully did not include all the relevant gas emitting factors when calculating the share of, principally, transport but also other sectors in total GHG calculations. In the former all emission increasing land clearance was put down against meat production, alongside the more obvious sources of Co2, methane and nitrous oxide, while the transport calculation included only oil burning emissions and not the output from manufacturer of transport vehicles. In fact, in developed regions like the EU and the US, more recent research indicates that while transport emissions are well beyond 25 per cent share, the output from meat production is below 5 per cent of total.
The FAO is also now prepared to admit that meat production – indeed, increased meat production – is vital to the economic improvement and nutrition of many developing countries. Unsurprisingly, FAO is now planning a new, more realistic examination of the relationship between meat production and GHG emissions. Hopefully, when this new report is published there will be less hysterical outbursts from politicians about the need to save the planet by eating less meat. Copies should be sent special delivery to the Vice President of the European Parliament, before we have any more ‘meatless Monday’ events, and UK Health Secretary Andy Burnham who endorsed a near batty proposal from a bunch of scientists that the country should slaughter 30 per cent of its ruminant livestock as a contribution to GHG reduction.Brian Gardner