Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Livestock’s Not-So-Long Shadow

Remember Livestock’s Long Shadow, the much-ballyhooed United Nations report that said livestock account for more greenhouse gases than transportation and that CAFOs are the worst offenders? Animal agriculture has been vilified over those findings for years.

Well, it turns out, five years down the road, the U.N. is saying, sorry, we made a mistake.

Frank Mitloehner of the California-Davis Agricultural Air Quality Center told the Animal Agriculture Alliance last week that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization is working on a follow-up report that backs away from the earlier estimates. Fittingly, the new report is called Shrinking the Shadow.

The 2006 report claimed that animals produced 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and argued that small, pasture-based farms produce fewer emissions than larger operations. The truth, Mitloehner told the animal agriculture group, is just the opposite: larger, intensified farming is better for the environment.

Mitloehner said his research supports estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency that U.S. agriculture contributes about 7 percent of GHG emissions, with about half of that coming from livestock. Of that total, U.S. pork farmers are responsible for only about one-third of 1 percent. By contrast, transportation accounts for 27 percent of U.S. GHG emissions.

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