Cows and sheep – and the methane they emit – pose one of the biggest threats to our nation through climate change. Geoff Russell from the Animal Justice Party explains.
It’s just a week since the latest in a long string of Animal Australia undercover reports on brutal slaughter conditions in the places to which we export sheep and cattle.
Every time this happens it’s followed by a week or three of irrelevant debate. The merits of a carcase trade, Australian jobs or whether these countries will just get animals from elsewhere are all moot. We don’t even need a debate about live animal export; it’s a dead man walking and it’s part of a team of similar zombies.
The ruminant industries, like the fossil fuel industries, have no place in a decarbonised future. The only issues worth discussing are the terms and pace of their phase out.
A couple of recent news stories shows that it could happen remarkably quickly once we get serious about the climate.
In a move that’s only 40 years too late, the Queensland Government has started the process by buying a 56,000 hectare cattle station for $7 million and given the owners until October 2017 to remove the cattle.
This is to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
For decades it’s been an open secret that deforestation to expand the cattle industry and the consequent sediment and fertiliser running into all the rivers that feed the waters of the reef is the biggest single factor killing the reef.
Now, with half the reef gone and plenty more in trouble the Queensland Government is acting. Is it better late than never? Maybe it’s just too late.
I doubt the Queensland Government is advertising any intention to expand on this action, but they don’t have to. The numbers make it obvious what has to happen.
The Copenhagen Diagnosis back in 2009 put the level of per-capita emissions we need to be looking at by 2050 at about one tonne of CO2 per person. Over this kind of timeframe, a tonne of methane generates warming equivalent to about 105 tonnes of CO2, and with our 29 million cattle and 70 million sheep generating 2.3 million tonnes of methane; the total climate load is equal to 2.3 x 105 = 241 million tonnes of CO2, or about 10 tonnes per person.
So sheep and cattle are 10 tonnes each, and we need to get down to just one.
It’s going to be tough enough to get the rest of our emissions down to one tonne per person, so there simply isn’t any room for anything at all from ruminants; not even one and certainly not 10.
The second piece of news came out of China. The Chinese have employed none other than The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and director James Cameron to persuade the Chinese to halve their meat consumption; and they already eat only half the meat that Australians eat.
This is a masterstroke and it’s all about the climate and health. The Chinese released revised dietary guidelines recently and they can see the rise in a range of diseases as meat consumption grows. They aim to act before their growing health problems get worse.
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We do brilliantly in bolting the health stable door after the horse has bolted with smart and very expensive medical intervention; but how much better would it be to prevent ill health rather than treat it. So this one action, reducing meat, will have multiple beneficial impacts at both the personal and international scales.
Maybe when Arnie has finished with the Chinese, he can tackle Di Natale, Shorten, Turnbull and all our other politicians in denial about meat.
China deserves considerable credit for being the only country taking climate change seriously. They are hitting emissions on all levels and aren’t afraid to tackle big beef.
As we enter the last week of this federal election campaign, it’s worth noting that only one political party actually understands climate change; and it isn’t the Greens. They don’t have a policy to phase out ruminants. So the Greens will still be stuck with 10 extra tonnes of CO2 per person; assuming they can get their other ideas to work.
Only the Animal Justice Party has the policies for the job. We don’t have as many policies as the other parties. Mainly because we don’t need to – ours are multipurpose and will actually work.
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