Cut out the 'bull' from anti red meat agenda

Livestock get a bad rap in climate argument

Opinion
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Animals are part of a bigger system, and people are ignorant to the fact this is about the overall system emissions rather than the emissions from just one of its operating parts.

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As the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was handed down last week, almost 400 Australians involved in managing carbon - many of whom were farmers - met in Albury.

They attended the Carbon Farmers of Australia conference where methods to take advantage of our fledgling carbon market were laid out.

At its core was a crystallising message of how agriculture can remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, agriculture, and in particular red meat, copped the brunt of mainstream media's views.

It would be easy to think from all the coverage that the IPCC itself had urged people to drop meat like a hot potato. But that's not the case.

As one of the report's authors stated (see p16) "we don't do recommendations".

Instead, the report says the focus must be on "food produced in resilient, sustainable and low greenhouse gas emissions systems".

It also said changes to our land management systems were a matter of urgency. That does not automatically translate to "don't eat red meat".

As one conference speaker said: "farmers can make a big difference and they have to, we have no choice" (see p31).

And farmers are changing. They are developing their understanding and adopting new management.

But this takes time, requires education and involves risk.

So rather than constantly bagging the livestock industry, it would help everybody if the discussion could progress to a level of understanding, rather than blaming - the same people doing the blaming are, after all, the same people who demand safe, cheap food.

Animals form a critical part of the water/nutrient cycle - depending on how they are managed.

If people stopped eating red meat, then we would potentially lose (in our sheep, cattle and goats) a critical tool for applying better land management.

When looking at animals alone, yes they do emit methane. However, animals are part of a bigger system, and people are ignorant to the fact this is about the overall system emissions rather than the emissions from just one of its operating parts.

So to remove livestock without understanding that is to risk losing a key lever farmers can pull to help everybody.

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