Archives for posts with tag: animal agriculture

This article first appeared on the author’s Planetary Vegan website on 15th March 2018.

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Paul Hawken is an American journalist, author and activist. He recently visited my home country, Australia, to speak about “Project Drawdown“, of which he is the executive director.

The project’s mission is “facilitating a broad coalition of researchers, scientists, graduate students, PhDs, post-docs, policy makers, business leaders and activists to assemble and present the best available information on climate solutions in order to describe their beneficial financial, social and environmental impact over the next thirty years.”

The results of the project were documented in the 2017 book “Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming”, which was edited by Hawken.

Eighty of the one hundred solutions were said to be “well entrenched with abundant scientific and financial information about their performance and cost”. The other twenty were described as “coming attractions” that are “forthcoming and close at hand”.

In what may be something of a contradiction, all one hundred were also described as the “most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change”.

From an initial review of Drawdown’s findings, I feel there are some aspects worth highlighting, some of which are a cause for concern.

The project focuses on more than drawdown

In relation to climate change, the term “drawdown” generally indicates the act of drawing carbon from the atmosphere. Project Drawdown combines that approach with the aim of avoiding future emissions. Although it is wise to consider each approach, the inclusion of the latter may cause the project’s title to be something of a misnomer.

Plant-rich diet

The researchers ranked a plant-rich diet fourth behind refrigeration, wind turbines and reduced food waste. I was pleased they had investigated the impact of diet, as it is a critical issue that has been ignored by many individuals and organisations campaigning on climate change. However, for various reasons, this solution could have been ranked higher, with a greater impact than indicated in the report.

One of those reasons is referred to in the next item, dealing with the global warming potential of different greenhouse gases.

Another is the fact that the authors of this chapter appear to have ignored the ability of native vegetation to regenerate if production animals are removed from areas that are currently used for animal agriculture.

That contrasts with the chapter on regenerative agriculture, where the authors noted that, apart from deserts and sand dunes, bare land will naturally revegetate.

The chapter on afforestation only considered the option of planting trees, and solely in areas that had been treeless for at least fifty years.

Some examples help to illustrate the importance of this issue:

  • A 2009 study by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency indicated that a global transition to a meat-free or animal-free diet would reduce climate change mitigation costs by 70-80 per cent. A key factor would be the ability of lands cleared or degraded for livestock grazing and feed crop production to regenerate forests and other forms of vegetation.
    x
  • Eastern Australia has been included by WWF in a list of eleven global deforestation fronts to the year 2030 due to concerns over land clearing legislation in Queensland and New South Wales. Two-thirds of clearing in Queensland in the four years to 2015/16 (the most recent reporting period) was of regrowth, indicating the resilience of native vegetation if given an opportunity to recover.
    x
  • Researchers behind a 2005 paper published in Nature estimated that massive portions of the north and south Guinea Savanna in Africa would have a reasonable chance of reverting to forest if livestock were removed. Their status as savanna is anthropogenic.

In addition to the issue of regrowth, two near-term climate forcers, tropospheric ozone and black carbon, are unlikely to have been accounted for in the life cycle assessments utilised by the Drawdown researchers.  They are also generally omitted from official emissions figures, but are prominent in animal agriculture. They remain in the atmosphere for a short period, but have a significant impact.

Loss of soil carbon from grazing and livestock-related land clearing may also have been overlooked.

Allowing for tropospheric ozone, loss of soil carbon resulting from livestock-related land clearing, a 20-year global warming potential (refer below) and other factors, researchers from the Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne and climate change advocacy group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) have estimated that the livestock sector is responsible for around fifty per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The findings were reinforced in a subsequent peer-reviewed journal article, which had two co-authors in common with the BZE paper. The figure compares to the official figure of around ten per cent, as referred to by the Drawdown authors.

The warming impact of greenhouse gases

A shorter time horizon for measuring the global warming potential (GWP) of the various greenhouse gases should have been considered in addition to the more common 100-year period (GWP100).

A commonly cited alternative period is 20 years (GWP20), with the IPCC and NASA providing relevant estimates. The GWP20 for methane is 86 times that of carbon dioxide after allowing for climate carbon feedbacks. Allowing for aerosol interactions, NASA researchers have estimated a multiple of 105.

The issue is critical in the context of climate change tipping points and feedback mechanisms with the potential to lead to runaway climate change over which (by definition) we would have no control.

A shorter time horizon would seem particularly relevant given the project’s focus on the next thirty years, and would have increased the impact of three of the top four solutions, namely refrigeration, food waste and a plant-rich diet.

Managed grazing

All Drawdown’s solutions are said to be “based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world”.

But how meticulous was the research?

The standard may have been lowered for the 19th-ranked solution, managed grazing, which is said to include techniques such as “improved continuous”, “rotational”, “adaptive multipaddock”, “intensive” and “mob” grazing.

Using similar terms, including “rotational” and “mob” plus “regenerative”, “cell”, “adaptive” and “management-intensive rotational”, researchers at the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) argued in 2017 that the “extremely ambitious claims” made by proponents of regenerative grazing and associated approaches are “dangerously misleading”.

FCRN is based at the University of Oxford. Other institutions that contributed to the relevant publication comprised: Universities of Aberdeen, Cambridge and Wageningen; the Centre for Organic Food and Farming (EPOK) at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU); the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in Switzerland; and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia.

Although Drawdown credits the initial investigation of managed grazing to Frenchman André Voison in the 1950s, its description of the techniques appears to align with the work of Allan Savory and the Savory Institute. Drawdown states, “managed grazing imitates what migratory herds of herbivores do on wildlands”. Savory argues we must use livestock, bunched and moving, as a proxy for former herds and predators, and mimic nature“.

Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins wrote favourably about Savory’s methods in their 1999 book “Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution”. Hunter Lovins is a member of the Savory Institute’s “Advisory Circle”, and defended Savory’s methods in a response to a critique of his work by Guardian columnist, George Monbiot. Hawken has also praised Savory’s work individually.

Two other Savory supporters, Bill McKibben (co-founder of 350.org) and Adam Sacks, are advisors to Project Drawdown. Sacks and another Savory Institute “Advisory Circle” member, Seth Itzkan, have taken credit for influencing McKibben in his support of Savory’s methods.

In prominent 2010 articles supporting Savory’s methods, McKibben and Sacks appear to have erroneously relied, in part, on what McKibben referred to as “preliminary research” favourable to livestock grazing. Critical measurements within that research were subsequently found to be out by a factor of 1,000. The articles from McKibben and Sacks have never been corrected. (I comment on them in item 2.2 here.)

Similar problems in relation to the same preliminary research have occurred in the work of Australian soils ecologist, Christine Jones, who has been cited by Sacks and others who promote Savory’s methods.

Errors can be difficult to avoid, and in this case the original research was corrected. However, the matter does not appear to have been adequately addressed in the material from McKibben, Sacks and Jones, referred to here, that utlilised it.

The FCRN authors cited a review by Swedish researcher Maria Nordborg, who analysed evidence put forward by the Savory Institute. She found the studies supporting Savory to be scanty, “generally anecdotal” and “based on surveys and testimonies rather than on-site measurements”.

Similarly, a 2014 article published in the International Journal of Biodiversity examined each of Savory’s claims. The authors stated that studies supporting Savory’s methods: “have generally come from the Savory Institute or anecdotal accounts of holistic management practitioners. Leading range scientists have refuted the system and indicated that its adoption by land management agencies is based on these anecdotes and unproven principles rather than scientific evidence.”

Drawdown appears to push aside scientific rigour in defending managed grazing practices. It does so, in part, by arguing that the transition period from traditional grazing to alternative approaches is two to three years, “about the same length of time as most of the studies that question the results shown by proponents”.

It is disappointing that a book which is claimed to be based on meticulous research argues that peer-reviewed papers criticising managed grazing practices are invalid because they are assumed to only cover the period of transition from one system to another. That is not meticulous work by the Drawdown team; it is subjective and extremely questionable.

The managed grazing issue seems almost a central theme for the authors. In addition to the chapter specifically focusing on the issue, it is mentioned in the foreword by Tom Steyer (using the term “regenerative grazing”) and in the chapters headed Plant-Rich Diet; Regenerative Agriculture; and A Cow Walks onto a Beach.

Although managed grazing may be viable on a relatively small scale subject to adequate water resources and livestock controls, it would never be sufficient to feed the masses. Animal-based food production is a grossly and inherently inefficient method of satisfying our nutritional requirements, and has a far greater impact on the natural environment than animal-free options. It causes us to use far more resources, including land, than would otherwise be required.

Permafrost and the mammoth steppe

A similar approach seems to have been taken in relation to the “coming attraction” of repopulating the mammoth steppe with grazing animals, as proposed by Russian scientist Sergey Zimov.

The steppe is a massive ecosystem that once extended “from Spain to Scandinavia, across all of Europe to Eurasia and then on to the Pacific land bridge and Canada”.

It contracted nearly 12,000 years ago, around the end of the most recent ice age. Large herbivores that once grazed its extensive grasslands also largely disappeared.

Zimov argues that reintroducing grazing animals would promote grasslands and remove the supposed insulating effect of snow on permafrost due to the animals’ practice of removing it in order to access pasture. He contends these  changes, along with a related restriction in wooded vegetation, would prevent the melting of permafrost, which would be critical to any efforts to overcome climate change.

Central to Zimov’s argument is the belief that the nature of the steppe’s flora changed due to hunting, which caused the extinction of large herbivores that once populated the region, keeping wooded vegetation in check and acting in favour of perennial grasslands.

The conventional view, on the other hand, is that the animals became extinct because of the warming climate, resulting in the growth of wooded vegetation at the expense of grassland.

The Drawdown authors flippantly disregard conventional “published papers” that have been unable to “taint” Zimov’s excursions in the mammoth steppe. Do those papers count for nothing in a project based on “meticulous research”?

A major concern with Drawdown on this issue is the sheer scale of the permafrost problem.

Permafrost is soil, sediment or rock that remains at or below 0°C for at least two years. It covers around twenty-four per cent of exposed land in the northern hemisphere and extends to offshore Arctic continental shelves. It ranges in thickness from less than 1 metre to more than a kilometre.

The Earth’s atmosphere contains about 850 gigatons of carbon. Researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Center estimate that there are about 1,400 gigatons of carbon frozen in permafrost.  Figure 1 illustrates the extent of permafrost in the northern hemisphere.

Figure 1: Permafrost map. Darker shades of purple indicate higher percentages of permanently frozen ground.

NSIDC Map by Philippe Rekacewicz, visionscarto.net. (Used with permission)

 

With rising temperatures, the permafrost has begun to thaw, releasing methane and carbon dioxide from decomposing organic matter within.

The release of those greenhouse gases creates a significant climate feedback mechanism, as it causes more warming, resulting in more thawing, then more warming, and so on.

The Drawdown authors seek to add perspective to the potential impact of Zimov’s attempt to preserve permafrost by stating: “If it came to pass, it would be the single largest solution or potential solution of the one hundred described in this book.”

But could Zimov’s efforts, if we were to assume his theory was sound, put even a dent in the permafrost problem?

In 2011, the Russian head of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Igor Semiletov, was astonished by the extent of methane being released from permafrost in the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. He said:

“We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale – I think on a scale not seen before. Some of the plumes were a kilometre or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere – the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal.”

Five years later, Dr Semiletov reported:

“The area of spread of methane mega-emissions has significantly increased in comparison with the data obtained in the period from 2011 to 2014. These observations may indicate that the rate of degradation of underwater permafrost has increased.”

Quite apart from the massive scale of the permafrost problem, would not the methane emissions from a growing population of ruminant animals such as bison, oxen and reindeer be a concern?

Seaweed and methane

In a chapter with the title “A cow walks onto a beach”, the authors highlight the ability of a livestock feed supplement containing the seaweed species, Asparagopsis taxiformis, to reduce methane emissions.

A key difficulty with this potential solution would be its application, which may be limited to dairy and feedlot animals, where the inclusion of dietary supplements is a straightforward process.

The emissions intensity of dairy products and beef from feedlot cattle and the dairy herd is already extremely low compared to that of specialised beef from grazing animals, meaning that the relative benefits of the supplement may be smaller than initially assumed.

Some more research that is far from meticulous

Some more examples of material that is inconsistent with Drawdown’s claims of scientific rigour and meticulous research may be worth mentioning.

Percentage of land surface

In the section on silvopasture, the authors claim that cattle and other ruminants require 30 to 45 per cent of the world’s arable land (my underline). However, the cited sources based their figures on the world’s total land surface, not just arable land.

At the time of writing, the name of one of the editors, Veerasamy Sejian, had been omitted from the relevant source on the Drawdown website.

Gigaton volume

In a section on numbers, the authors seek to demonstrate the volume of a gigaton of carbon dioxide. However, they use the volume of a gigaton of water, which represents a small fraction of a gigaton of carbon dioxide’s volume.

To illustrate the dimensions, they use 2016’s emissions of 36 gigatons of carbon dioxide, indicating they would equate to around 14 million Olympic-sized pools. That is based on the fact that one tonne of water occupies one cubic metre.

However, one tonne of carbon dioxide occupies not 1 cubic metre, but 534.8! That is 8.12 x 8.12 x 8.12 metres, not 1 x 1 x 1.

Figure 2: Volume of one tonne of carbon dioxide

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That means that 36 gigatons of carbon dioxide equates to around 7.7 billion Olympic-sized pools, not 14 million.

1.5°C vs 2°C

In their comments on the mammoth steppe (referred to earlier in this article), the Drawdown authors paint a clear line between the impacts on permafrost of temperature increases of 1.5°C and 2°C. In reality, there is no distinct line between the two.

They suggest that, beyond 2°C, “the emissions released from the permafrost will become a positive-feedback loop that accelerates global warming”. However, that is already happening; it is simply a question as to how strongly the feedback mechanism operates at different temperatures.

Carbon dioxide vs methane

Also in the section on the mammoth steppe, the authors refer to the release of “carbon and methane” to the atmosphere.

It is important to note that both carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) contain carbon atoms. The authors may have meant “carbon dioxide and methane” but their intention is unclear.

Where did the nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide go?

In the chapter on seaweed and methane (“A cow walks onto a beach”), the authors correctly point out that methane emissions from enteric fermentation in the digestive system of ruminant production animals represent around 39 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production.

They then mention that methane is not the only greenhouse gas caused by livestock, but fail to mention the others. They simply indicate that feed production and processing accounts for around 45 per cent of livestock-related emissions. Those emissions are split fairly evenly between carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.

Using the authors’ source document (from the UN FAO) the split is: methane 43.8% (including manure management and rice used as animal feed); nitrous oxide 29.3%; and carbon dioxide 26.9%.

Those apportionments are based on a 100-year global warming potential for measuring the relative impact of the various greenhouse gases. Based on a 20-year GWP, methane’s share increases to 66 per cent.

Animal suffering, human health, and more on climate change

The Drawdown authors appear to have fallen for the trap of assuming that animal agriculture outside the regime of factory farming has little negative impact on animals, human health and the climate. For example, they claim that there are “reams of data” regarding the contribution to climate change of conventional cattle raising systems that involve feedlots. But where is the data indicating such systems are worse than alternative forms of animal agriculture?

To the contrary, researchers from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Texas A&M University and Australia’s CSIRO have reported that ruminant animals eating grass produce methane at four times the rate of those eating grain. [Footnote]

Similarly, Professor Gidon Eshel of Bard College, New York and formerly of the Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, has reported, “since grazing animals eat mostly cellulose-rich roughage while their feedlot counterparts eat mostly simple sugars whose digestion requires no rumination, the grazing animals emit two to four times as much methane”.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that specialised beef from grazing animals is around 6.4 times as emissions intensive as that from animals partially reared in feedlots (95.1 kg CO2-e/kg product vs 14.8 CO2-e/kg product).

In terms of human health, an April 2016 study by researchers from the University of Oxford estimated that if the global population were to adopt a vegetarian diet, 7.3 million lives per year would be saved by 2050. If a vegan diet were adopted, the figure would be 8.1 million. More than half the avoided deaths would result from reduced red meat consumption.

The results primarily reflect anticipated reductions in the rate of coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. They apply to all forms of red meat, and are consistent with findings of the World Health Organization, the World Cancer Research Fund and researchers from Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, the German Institute of Human Nutrition, and elsewhere.

Alternative farming systems are not generally cruelty free. For examples, most jurisdictions permit horrendously cruel practices through exemptions to prevention of cruelty legislation in favour of the livestock sector. In terms of cattle, permitted practices generally include (without pain prevention or relief): castration; dehorning; disbudding; hot iron branding; and forced breeding, often involving artificial insemination. Such breeding practices cause the animals to be sexually violated, and may be considered illegal outside the food production system.

Conclusion

The Project Drawdown concept has much merit, but its excessive support for animal agriculture appears to conflict with its stated aims. For many who are following it in the hope of finding solutions to the climate crisis, the project may help to justify existing dietary patterns. However, a general transition away from animal agriculture is necessary, and should not be too high a price to pay in exchange for retaining a habitable planet.

Author

Paul Mahony

Footnote

Although the CSIRO subsequently reported a reduction of around 30 per cent in emissions from the northern Australian cattle herd, emissions from grass-fed cattle remain on a different paradigm to those of most food-based emissions.

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World Health Organization, “Breast cancer: prevention and control”, http://www.who.int/cancer/detection/breastcancer/en/index2.html

World Cancer Research Fund – Recommendations, http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/cancer_prevention_recommendations/index.php

Harvard University, T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “WHO report says eating processed meat is carcinogenic: Understanding the findings”, undated, https://www.hsph.harvard.ed/nutritionsource/2015/11/03/report-says-eating-processed-meat-is-carcinogenic-understanding-the-findings/

Kennedy P. M., Charmley E. (2012) “Methane yields from Brahman cattle fed tropical grasses and legumes”, Animal Production Science 52, 225–239, Submitted: 10 June 2011, Accepted: 7 December 2011, Published: 15 March 2012, http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN11103

CSIRO Media Release, “Research sheds new light on methane emissions from the northern beef herd”, 27th May 2011, https://csiropedia.csiro.au/research-sheds-new-light-on-methane-emissions-from-the-northern-beef-herd/

Images

Alexey Suloev, “Beautiful view of icebergs and whale in Antarctica”, Shutterstock, Photo ID: 543672994

NSIDC Map by Philippe Rekacewicz, visionscarto.net. (Used with permission)

Carbon Visuals, Actual volume of one metric ton of carbon dioxide gas, Flickr, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Volume Calculations

1 gigaton = 1 billion tonnes

1 tonne of H2O = 1 cubic metre

1 tonne of CO2 = 534.8 cubic metres

1 gigaton of H2O = 1,000,000,000 cubic metres

1 gigaton of CO2 = 534,800,000,000 cubic metres

36 gigatons of H2O = 36,000,000,000 cubic metres

36 gigatons of CO2 = 19,252,800,000,000 cubic metres

1 Olympic-sized pool = 2,500 cubic metres

36 gigatons of H20 = 14,400,000 Olympic-sized pools

36 gigatons of CO2 = 7,701,120,000 Olympic-sized pools

Notes:

Drawdown’s figures are based on metric, rather than imperial, tons.

At standard pressure and 15°C, the density of carbon dioxide gas is 1.87 kg/m3. One tonne of carbon dioxide gas occupies 534.8 m3. It would fill a cube 8.12 x 8.12 x 8.12 metres, compared to a tonne of water, which would fill a cube 1 x 1 x 1 metres.

Updates

The item “Animal suffering, human health, and more on climate change” was added on 15th March 2018, subsequent to the initial release.

New paragraph and reference added in relation to managed grazing on 18th March 2018.

This post first appeared on the Planetary Vegan website on 2nd July 2018

Climate Council of Australia is a high-profile climate change campaign organisation, whose “Chief Councillor” is former Australian of the Year, Professor Tim Flannery. (It could be argued the Council has more than enough chiefs, with others occupying the roles of Chair and CEO.) Although he has written books on climate change, Flannery’s main areas of academic research have been zoology and palaeontology.

The Climate Council was created after the former Climate Commission, an independent body created by the federal Labor government in 2011, was disbanded two years later by the newly elected conservative Liberal/National coalition government. [1] Flannery had been Chief Commissioner.

The Council has issued ninety-five reports, with an unfortunate feature of some being what they’ve omitted rather than what they’ve included.

Two examples have dealt with the related issues of land clearing in Queensland and land carbon in vegetation and soils.

Land clearing in Queensland

The report Land clearing & climate change: Risks and opportunities in the sunshine state was issued in 2018. [2]

In addition to highlighting the extent of clearing, the main points of the report were: (a) government policies affect the rate of land clearing; (b) land clearing contributes to climate change; and (c) key aims of land use policy should be to avoid clearing, allow regrowth and encourage replanting.

The only risk referred to (despite the use of the plural “risks” in the title) was the supposed “risk of reversal”. The authors argued that we must not rely on land carbon to offset fossil fuel emissions, as sequestered carbon could be released back to the atmosphere by land clearing or natural disturbances, thereby reversing the initial sequestration.

There is no doubt that we must address the issue of fossil fuels, but that does not diminish the need to include land use in our efforts to overcome climate change. Indeed, we will not succeed without it. (More on that point below.)

The only opportunities referred to were those involved in strengthening a bill currently before the Queensland parliament, which proposes amendments to Queensland’s Vegetation Management Act 1999.

Queensland has been the most destructive Australian state in terms of native vegetation for decades. The Queensland government’s own Statewide Landcover and Trees Study has shown that, since records began in 1988, creation of pasture has been responsible for 91 per cent of clearing. In the most recent reporting period, the figure was 93 per cent. [3]

Despite those alarming figures, in its report dealing solely with land clearing in Queensland, the Climate Council said nothing about livestock-related clearing.

Indeed, almost laughingly (if it were not so serious) the report compared “land use sector” emissions with those of the “agriculture sector”.

Here we have an organisation whose reason for existence is to “provide independent, authoritative climate change information to the Australian public” willingly accepting the dangerous deception of “internationally agreed definitions and methodologies for carbon accounting”, without considering the reality that land clearing for livestock grazing is an agricultural sector activity.

It is those “internationally agreed definitions and methodologies” that have assisted policy makers to effectively ignore the livestock sector’s overall contribution to the climate crisis, willingly playing into the hands of their industry supporters.

The issue has been raised by this writer with Flannery and his fellow commissioners Amanda McKenzie (CEO) and Will Steffen, but they have chosen to ignore it.

Land Carbon

In its 2016 report, Land Carbon: No substitute for action on fossil fuels, the Council downplayed the influence of land carbon on climate change and its importance in respect of efforts to overcome it. [4]

Its main argument was that carbon sequestration on land should not be considered a valid offset for fossil fuel emissions, as it may be seen to excuse such emissions.

Key concerns were the risk of reversal (referred to earlier) and scale, as they argue that the extent of sequestration would be dwarfed by fossil fuel emissions. (p. 39)

However, in a landmark 2008 paper, Dr James Hansen and his fellow authors argued that sequestration of carbon in land sinks was an essential component of returning atmospheric carbon concentrations to 350 parts per million (ppm). [5] Hansen had been prompted to establish a target by climate change campaigner and author, Bill McKibben, who adopted the figure as the name of the organisation he co-founded, 350.org.

Hansen’s supplementary material indicated a maximum sequestration potential of 1.6 gigatonnes of carbon per year through action in relation to forests and soils, which represents a rate of sequestration nearly fifty per cent higher than that relied upon by the Climate Council. Current carbon emissions from fossil fuels are around 10 gigatonnes per year. Converting the figures to carbon dioxide results in figures of 5.9 and 36.7 gigatonnes respectively. [6]

Despite the differences in estimates, even the Climate Council states (with my underlines), that we must “return back to the land as much as possible of the atmospheric carbon that originated from the land”. (p. 15) Yet it effectively ignores key measures required to do so, including the critical measure of a general transition away from animal agriculture.

An example of the Climate Council appearing to ignore the issue is its view that cattle grazing represents an ongoing limitation to the amount of land that can be used for carbon sequestration. (pp. 29-30) That is a similar approach to that of climate change author, Philip Sutton, who referred to the need for reforestation in a September 2015 seminar, while expressing concern over perceived difficulties of such a requirement  in relation to food production. Both ignore the fact that far less land would be required for food production if we were not relying on animals as a nutrient source.

The Climate Council has mentioned “strategic grazing management” favourably, even though that measure represents little more than tweaking around the edges of the problem. Using similar terms, including “rotational”, “mob”, “regenerative”, “cell”, “adaptive” and “management-intensive rotational” grazing, researchers at the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) at the University of Oxford argued in 2017 that the “extremely ambitious claims” made by proponents of such approaches are “dangerously misleading”. [7]

When citing deforestation as the main reason for loss of carbon from human land use, the Climate Council failed to refer to the overwhelmingly dominant cause of that deforestation, which has been meat production. (p. 16) [Footnote 1]

When mentioning agriculture in the caption to a related image, there was no reference to the animal variety.

It also acknowledged the importance of protecting carbon stored in coastal ecosystems (including mangroves and coastal wetlands), but did not link such a measure to the impact of fishing and therefore diet. (p. 27)

Although the Climate Council is willing to use alternatives to standard methods of reporting in relation to fossil fuels (by including exported fossil fuel emissions in Australia’s figures), it has retained conservative standard reporting methodologies in relation to land use emissions. (p. 20).

Given the massive extent of livestock production across the Australian land mass, the extent of land clearing should be no surprise. In the sixth largest country on the planet, livestock grazing covers 54 per cent of the land area, as demonstrated by Figure 1. [8]

Figure 1: Australian Land Use

Much of the land that is grazed has not been cleared, but the grazing has had other destructive impacts, including: the introduction of invasive pasture grasses; manipulation of fire regimes; degradation of land and natural water sources; and (particularly relevant to climate change) loss of soil carbon. The introduced species are destroying fragile landscapes that have not evolved to cope with them.

The Great Barrier Reef

Another issue in which the Climate Council has ignored livestock production’s impacts has been coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef.

Here is how it highlighted its recent reef-related activities in its 2016-17 annual report:

“Over the past year, we’ve had a particular focus on the unprecedented back-to-back coral bleaching taking place on the Great Barrier Reef. Our work has included a series of reports, original video content, a newspaper advertisement, two journalist trips and engaging with local tourism operators.”

Despite all that activity, it appears to have published nothing that highlights the horrendous impact of animal agriculture. Cattle grazing has been the main source of sediment and phosphorus in the reef’s waters, and a major contributor to nitrogen loads. A key result has been major outbreaks of crown-of-thorn starfish, which had had a far greater impact than coral bleaching until at least 2012 and possibly overall. [9]

A token article on animal agriculture’s impact

Less than two months after this author posted an online presentation highlighting links between environmental organisations and the livestock sector, the Climate Council (which had been included in the presentation) posted a short article on the impacts of animal agriculture. [10, 11] [Footnote 2] The article appeared more than five years after the councilors came together in the council’s predecessor organisation, the Climate Commission. The adverse impacts it referred to were conservative, and the council still couldn’t help itself; it concluded with comments not on the livestock sector, but on power generation.

Conclusion

If we are facing a climate crisis requiring emergency action, why are critical measures seemingly off-limits for the Climate Council?

It appears to have fallen well short of its claim to have been “changing the narrative and ensuring Australians are equipped with the best information on climate change and solutions”. [12]

Author

Paul Mahony

Footnotes

  1. At that point in the paper, the Climate Council went from items (i) – (iii) to items (i) and (ii) with no commentary between them. This appears to have been a typographical error.
  2. The presentation was not suggesting that anyone had been influenced by the links or that anyone was trying to influence others; it simply noted that the links exist.

References

[1] Arup, Tom, “Abbott shuts down Climate Commission”, Sydney Morning Herald, 19th September 2013, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/abbott-shuts-down-climate-commission-20130919-2u185.html

[2] Steffen, W., Dean, A., Climate Council of Australia, “Land clearing & climate change: Risks and opportunities in the sunshine state” , 23rd April 2018, https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/qld-land-clearing-report/

[3] Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation. 2016. Land cover change in Queensland 2015-16: a Statewide Landcover and Trees Study (SLATS) report. DSITI, Brisbane, https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/land/vegetation/mapping/slats

[4] Steffen, W., Fenwick, J., Rice, M., Climate Council of Australia, “Land Carbon: No substitute for action on fossil fuels”, 29th September 2016, https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/land-carbon-report/

[5] Hansen, J; Sato, M; Kharecha, P; Beerling, D; Berner, R; Masson-Delmotte, V; Pagani, M; Raymo, M; Royer, D.L.; and Zachos, J.C. “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?”, 2008, Open Atmos. Sci. J., 2, Supplementary Material, p. xvi, doi:10.2174/1874282300802010217, https://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha00410c.html

[6] IPCC Working Group III: Mitigation, IV Units, Conversion Factors, and GDP Deflators, http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg3/index.php?idp=477

[7] Garnett, T., Godde, C., Muller, A., Röös, E., Smith, P., de Boer, I., zu Ermgassen, E., Herrero, M., van Middelaar, C., Schader, C., van Zanten, H. (2017), “Grazed and Confused?”, Food Climate Research Network, http://www.fcrn.org.uk/sites/default/files/project-files/fcrn_gnc_report.pdf

[8] Australian Government, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, ABARES
National scale land use (based on Land Use of Australia 2010-11, Version 5, ABARES 2016)
Last reviewed 5th March 2018, http://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/aclump/land-use

[9] Mahony, P. “Meat eaters vs The Great Barrier Reef”, Terrastendo, 18th June 2017, https://terrastendo.net/2017/06/18/meat-eaters-vs-the-great-barrier-reef/, citing Brodie, J., “Great Barrier Reef dying beneath its crown of thorns”, The Conversation, 16th April, 2012, http://theconversation.com/great-barrier-reef-dying-beneath-its-crown-of-thorns-6383 and De’ath, G., Katharina Fabricius, K.E., Sweatman, H., Puotinen, M., “The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes”, PNAS 2012 109 (44) 17995-17999; published ahead of print October 1, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1208909109, http://www.pnas.org/citmgr?gca=pnas%3B109%2F44%2F17995

[10] Mahony, P., “The link that too many ignore”, Terrastendo, 26th August 2016, https://terrastendo.net/2016/08/26/the-link-that-too-many-ignore/

[11] The Climate Council of Australia, “From farm to plate to the atmosphere: food-related emissions”, 16th October 2016, http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/from-farm-to-plate-to-the-atmosphere-reducing-your-food-related-emissions

[12] Climate Council of Australia, Annual Report 2016-17, p. 2, https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/2017/12/07/annual-report-17/

Image

Adwo, “Free range Australian bull”, Shutterstock

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) describes itself as “an active, powerful lobby group dedicated to the interests of farmers and making a difference to communities”.

On 5th January 2018, the organisation issued a statement in which it said it had “slammed” key aspects of the Victorian state government’s recently released animal welfare action plan.

In what he described as a “stern warning to government”, president David Jochinke condemned the proposal to introduce the concept of sentience to animal welfare legislation.

In its action plan, the government had described “sentience” as the notion that animals “experience feelings and emotions such as pleasure, comfort, discomfort, fear and pain”. Similarly, the Oxford dictionary defines the adjective “sentient” as “able to perceive or feel things“.

The government’s examples of pleasure and fear are psychological in nature, while comfort, discomfort and pain can be psychological and physical.

In condemning the government’s proposal, was Jochinke implying that animals do not experience physical and psychological pain?

Alternatively, was he implying that any pain they may experience does not matter?

Jochinke claimed the proposal would “introduce language into law that can be manipulated by animal extremists for their own purposes”.

It is easy to brand people as “extremists” when they act on the belief that animals have a right to live without being exploited by farmers and others.

Are those farmers not extreme when they harm animals? At the present time (as referred to in more detail below), they are permitted to perform acts that would be illegal if they involved a companion animal such as a dog or cat.

The “purposes” of so-called “animal extremists” generally involve protecting the interests of animals, unlike the profit motive, at animals’ expense, of most farmers.

Cartesian scientists and farmers

The term “Cartesian scientists” stems from the seventeenth century philosopher René Descartes, who argued that only humans have minds and therefore the ability to think. His followers took the argument to also mean that animals cannot feel.

In his book “Animals like us”, author Mark Rowlands wrote:

“If you were an animal in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, then one of the things you should have made a point of avoiding would be Cartesian scientists. If not, then, you could expect to find yourself nailed to a vivisection board, being slowly cut open. You would be conscious throughout. The Cartesian scientists did not take any steps to prevent your suffering or pain for one very simple reason: they did not believe you were capable of suffering or feeling pain.”

Like most of us, VFF and its members may be horrified by the actions of Cartesians, as described by Rowlands. However, routine actions of farmers at the current time, with the full support of the law, are also deplorable. Such actions are currently permitted by means of exemptions to the erroneously titled “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act”.

As I have stated elsewhere, the government continues to outrageously claim the exemptions do not permit cruelty to occur when, by their nature, they do.

Here are a few examples (generally performed without pain prevention or relief): hot-iron branding; tail docking; ear notching; teeth clipping; castration; dehorning; removal of toe segments; lifelong confinement indoors (often in cages); forced separation of mothers and babies; and forced breeding, often involving stimulation by humans, penetration with artificial devices, and ongoing confinement.

A key concern for farmers

In an article written for Stock and Land, VFF livestock president, Leonard Vallance, stated:

“The introduction of sentience into law will only provide a platform for the argument against the existence of farm animal production systems as has been exposed by extremists in Europe.”

If Vallance is seeking to indicate that horrific routine practices only occur overseas, then his claim is not valid. Such practices have been extensively exposed in Australia, with a prominent example being the Aussie Farms website.

Vallance’s concerns about a platform for arguments against farm animal production systems may be well founded. Legislation that acknowledged sentience and was claimed by its authors to promote care and respect of animals, while also allowing acts of cruelty, could be regarded as callous and contradictory.

There is no indication in the government’s action plan that it intends removing legislative exemptions. Indeed, the plan appears to strongly support the livestock sector.

Even where standards or codes of practice stipulate protective practices, they are often vague and therefore easy to overlook. For example, the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep specify that “sheep and lambs should be provided with adequate shelter”. They go on to say that, in the absence of natural protection, “consideration should be given” to the provision of shade, windbreaks or sheds.

Farmers may briefly consider such measures, without necessarily doing anything about them. It was estimated in 2012 that around 15 million lambs die each year in Australia within 48 hours of birth due to inadequate protection in bitterly cold conditions.

VFF vice president creates a new word

The VFF’s vice president, Brett Hosking, recently released a video on Twitter, expressing concern over the government’s action plan. In it, he appears to have created a new word, “sentenance”. He used it or “sentinent” four times, presumably intending to mean “sentience” and “sentient”.

Hosking only referred to the psychological aspects, failing to acknowledge the physical component. (He used words such as “emotions”, “thoughts”, “happy”, “sad”, “nervous”, “anxious”, “scared”, “afraid” and “excited”.)

As indicated by these comments, he is not convinced that any animals are “sentinent”:

“Whether animals are ‘sentinent’ or not, I’m not really sure. I like to think that when my dog runs up to see me in the morning that he’s running up because he wants to hang out with me because I’m a fun fellow, but it could be just instinct because he’s used to, you know, [he] knows that things are all right when I’m around.”

He also reiterated a point made by VFF in its statement, by arguing that using the word “sentinent” in legislation would mean, “what we’re kind of saying is that animal welfare depends on the animal, not on the person doing it.”

The VFF’s statement argued: “Animal welfare law is about addressing human behaviour towards animals, not addressing animals”.

Leonard Vallance made a similar point in his article.

In his video, Hosking went on to say:

It’s kind of like saying that if the animal doesn’t get sad or upset, then it’s all right to be cruel to them, and that doesn’t really rest easy with me. [It’s a] little bit like saying it’s okay to discriminate against someone as long as they don’t realise it’s happened.”

That is a fallacious argument, in that it fails to acknowledge the fact that all animals farmed by VFF members are sentient. Hosking and VFF seemingly fail to accept that the existence of animal sentience, and the need to prevent cruel practices, are inextricably linked.

Here’s the tweet:

Conclusion

With the Victorian government failing to indicate it will remove legislative exemptions in favour of the livestock sector, along with the VFF’s attitude toward sentience, what chance do “production” animals have of avoiding cruelty?

The most effective way to minimise cruelty in food consumption is to avoid animal-based products. We have a choice, and should use it for the benefit of those who have none.

Author

Paul Mahony

References

Victorian Farmers Federation, “About us”, https://www.vff.org.au/vff/The_VFF/AboutUs/vff/About_Us/About_Us.aspx?hkey=d1685f71-c8b5-43ae-b571-a2594d327d9d (accessed 22 Jan 2018)

Victorian Farmers Federation, “Farmers condemn unnecessary animal welfare legislation”, 5 January 2018, https://www.vff.org.au/vff/Media_Centre/Media2018/Farmers_condemn_unnecessary_animal_welfare_regulation.aspx

Agriculture Victoria, Animal Welfare Action Plan, Jan 2018, http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare/animal-welfare-action-plan

Rowlands, M., “Animals like us”, Verso Books, London, 2002 (p. 3)

Agriculture Victoria, “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Legislation”, http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare/animal-welfare-legislation/prevention-of-cruelty-to-animals-legislation (accessed 23 Jan 2018)

Victorian Farmers Federation, “Livestock Group”, https://www.vff.org.au/vff/Industries/Livestock/Industry_Structure/vff/Industry_Groups/Livestock/Industry_Structure.aspx?hkey=ffb4d11e-ed46-4217-8a21-426c01a08e2a (accessed 22 Jan 2018)

Vallance, L., “Farmers care about the welfare of animals”, Stock and Land, 11 Jan 2018, http://www.stockandland.com.au/story/5160138/farmers-care-about-the-welfare-of-animals/?cs=4587

The Aussie Farms Repository, http://www.aussiefarms.com.au/ (accessed 23 Jan 2018)

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines: Sheep, http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/sheep/

Neales, S., “End to the silence about 15 million dead lambs”, The Australian, 3 Sep 2012, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/end-to-the-silence-about-15-million-dead-lambs/news-story/dcfd08eddf63e33380a5f26004c596bf (This reference relates to the main image, as referred to below.)

Victorian Farmers Federation, “Board of Directors”https://www.vff.org.au/vff/The_VFF/Board_of_Directors/vff/About_Us/Profiles.aspx?hkey=ade72ab8-85f4-4c59-8572-e8cc5827c671 (accessed 22 Jan 2018)

Hosking, B., Twitter @HoskingBrett, 17 Jan 2018, https://twitter.com/HoskingBrett/status/953428962943819776

Image

Melbourne Sheep Save

Related articles

Victorian animal cruelty

This post highlights some material from this site’s memes and charts page, focusing on animal slaughter and meat production figures from 1961 to 2016.

Although there appears to have been significant progress in veganism (from a small base) in many countries, there is a long way to go on a global basis, with a strong overall increase in slaughter numbers over the full period and in recent years. For example, in the ten years from 2006 to 2016, the annual number of animals slaughtered globally increased by 19 billion, or 34 per cent, to 74.1 billion.

In 2016, we slaughtered a staggering 2,352 animals per second, on average.

The animals paying the highest price are chickens. In 2016, 65.8 billion of them were slaughtered for meat, representing 89 per cent of the total. The figure does not include male chicks gassed or macerated (using a conveyor belt and industrial grinder) on the first day of life in the egg industry. As they cannot lay eggs, they are considered waste.

There has been an increasing preference for the flesh of chickens over the flesh of other animals, such as cattle and sheep. As highlighted in my article, The global slaughter index, anyone adopting such an approach is massively increasing their cruelty footprint.

In the USA, 182 chickens are required to replace the meat from one cow. The figure varies by country, and depends on the average yield of meat from each species. In Australia, 138 chickens are required.

Whether they are a chicken or a cow, animals suffer in almost unimaginable ways. They are regarded by the livestock sector as products or commodities, bred simply for the purpose of being killed. The horror includes legalised and routine cruelty, including practices such as: mutilation without pain prevention or relief; lifelong confinement indoors; and forced breeding with human intervention.

By definition, any form of human intervention is unnatural, and livestock production represents an extreme example.

Here are the latest figures for the world, USA and Australia. The charts reflect absolute and “per person” figures.

Global

USA

Australia

Conclusion

We have been conditioned socially, culturally and commercially to ignore the horror that exists behind these charts. They represent hell on earth for animals, but animals are not the only ones paying a price.

Animal-based food production is a grossly and inherently inefficient method of satisfying our nutritional requirements. That is a key factor in it having a far greater impact on the natural environment and the existential threat of climate change than animal-free options. It causes us to use far more resources, including land, than would otherwise be required, and is not sustainable on a scale required to feed the masses.

The livestock sector, with the mass slaughter and environmental destruction it entails, may seem like a juggernaut, but the juggernaut can be stopped. Recognition of its massive scale and impact is an essential step on that path.

Author

Paul Mahony

Data Sources

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

World Bank

Image

© Tamara Kenneally Photography, tamarakenneallyphotography.com

Date

The article was published at 12.13 am on 10th January 2018 Australian eastern summer time, which was 9th January in most parts of the world, including North America.

I did not expect to see significant improvements for animals in the Victorian government’s recently released Animal Welfare Action Plan, so I was not surprised when I read it. [Footnote 1]

It has outlined four areas for action: policy and legal framework; collaboration; education; and compliance and enforcement.

A draft version was released in 2016, and I highlighted two key points in my response:

  • Exemptions to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in favour of animal-based industries permit horrendous acts of cruelty to occur on a routine basis.
  • The community should be informed of the reality through advertising, public relations and product labelling, to enable informed purchasing decisions.

Neither issue has been addressed in the final plan, despite references to “care and respect” and “consumer confidence” (as referred in more detail below).

The government still claims elsewhere, as it has for over three years, that the exemptions do not permit cruelty to occur. That is an outrageous claim, which shows no respect for animals or people seeking information on the issue. By their nature, the exemptions permit cruelty.

Such government doublespeak is consistent with the failure to adequately address community education in the plan, with its intention (for example) to communicate “information about . . .  good practice husbandry”, as referred to under the item “improve general animal welfare knowledge”.

It appears that most animals have again been abandoned for the sake of political support from animal-based industries and others, with the government trying to give the impression that something meaningful has been achieved. (In referring to “most animals”, I note that the government has indicated there are more that 150 million farm animals in Victoria, compared to 6.7 million companion animals.)

The focus is unashamedly welfare rather than rights. A welfare approach treats the question of rights as a one-way street by taking the position that humans have the right to exploit animals.

It looks like a business plan

The banner heading for the plan’s vision and purpose is: “Victoria cares”

But does it?

The vision:
A Victoria that fosters the caring and respectful treatment of animals.”

The purpose:
“To ensure Victoria continues to improve animal welfare and is well respected globally for animal welfare practices.”

It seems the plan has been created largely with the aim of ensuring that Victoria is well respected globally, with the related aim of protecting export markets.

Most animals are clearly regarded by the government as products, with reference to “production animals” and “ethical and responsible animal production”. However, it is not in an animal’s interest to become someone else’s product.

That means they are being exploited.

Exploitation is unethical.

It is irresponsible.

It does not reflect “caring and respectful treatment”.

With contradictions such as those, the “vision and purpose” statement does not represent a strong base on which to establish a plan for the benefit of animals. They are only some of the contradictions and inconsistencies within, or related to, the plan.

The vision statement also refers to the need to avoid “unnecessary” harm. However, it is all unnecessary. For example, in respect of diet, both the American Dietetic Association and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council have written favourably about a vegan approach.

Within her foreword to the plan, the minister for agriculture, Jaala Pulford, states (with my underlines):

“The government is also committed to promoting market access and maintaining consumer confidence in Victoria’s livestock industries.”

The economic theme is prominent throughout. Here are some more examples (with my underlines):

“The way animals are treated reflects on Victoria’s national and international reputation, including market access, consumer confidence and the ability to create and sustain jobs.”

Australian and overseas markets are experiencing growing demand for humane and responsibly produced food. Many of the world’s food production companies are setting animal welfare standards for their suppliers. Many industry quality assurance programs include animal welfare requirements to provide confidence to consumers and markets about Victoria’s standard of care for production animals. This is important to maintain and expand Victoria’s domestic and global market access in an environment where there is growing demand for animal products that are produced in animal welfare credentialed systems.”

“The new Act must be capable of evolving to keep pace with animal welfare science, community expectations, industry practices, and domestic and international market access opportunities.”

“For example, Victoria’s agricultural industries recognise that animal welfare underpins productivity.”

“The Victorian Government values and continues to support key animal industries and activities, such as agriculture, sport, recreation (including hunting and fishing), research and teaching, invasive species management, pets, breeding and exhibition.”

I accept that economic issues need to be treated seriously by governments. However, animals should not be forced to pay the price for the well-being of the human population. The government is virtually admitting that “production animals” are regarded as economic cannon fodder, while pretending to be concerned about them.

Other animals, such as those used in research, sport and entertainment, are suffering a similar fate, with financial motives again often playing a part.

Some more contradictions and a massive generalisation

In her foreword, Jaala Pulford also states (with my underlines) that we all have a role to play in ensuring the welfare of pets, farm animals and wild animals.

Similarly, the minister’s ambassador for animal welfare, Lizzie Blandthorn, states that we must protect animals from cruelty and support their quality of life, including on farms and in their natural environment.

Those statements are from members of a government that (as indicated earlier) exempts many animal-based industries from the provisions of cruelty prevention legislation.

They are from members of a government that permits the shooting of ducks, kangaroos and other wild animals as “recreation”.

Allowing people to shoot animals “in their natural environment” is not my idea of protecting animals from cruelty. Many suffer horrendously before dying, and those left behind in their family and social groups are forced to fend for themselves, if they are able. Many victims of shooting are supposedly protected species.

A grave concern in respect of kangaroos is that the prime targets of shooters are the largest, strongest individuals, with potentially critical impacts on the prospects of their mob (the term used to describe their group), along with the gene pool and the resilience of the species in increasingly challenging environmental conditions.

The minister also claims that “animal welfare matters to all Victorians”. That is a massive generalisation in a state of over six million people.

Sentience

Much of the media reporting of the plan’s release focused on the intention to recognise animal sentience within legislation. However, that may be a form of tokenism, without meaningful benefits for animals.

According to the plan:

“Science demonstrates that animals are sentient. This means they experience feelings and emotions such as pleasure, comfort, discomfort, fear and pain. Sentience is the primary reason that animal welfare is so important. All people and industries within Victoria have a responsibility to treat all animals with care and respect.”

Do we really need science to tell us that? Any child who has interacted with an animal knows it.

As to treating animals with “care and respect”, here are some examples of practices permitted by legislative exemptions, most of which I highlighted in a letter to the minister in March 2016 and in my plan submission:

Pigs:

  • life-long confinement indoors;
  • confinement in a sow stall, with insufficient room to turn around, for up to 16.5 weeks, day and night;
  • confinement in a farrowing crate, with insufficient room to turn around or interact with piglets, for up to 6 weeks, day and night;
  • tail docking, ear notching, teeth clipping and castration, all without anaesthetic or subsequent pain relief.

The Australian pig industry’s so-called voluntary ban on sow stalls allows them to be used for up to eleven days per pregnancy, and is not be binding on individual producers. In any event, the ability to monitor compliance is questionable, while the alternative of “group housing” is also inherently cruel.

The industry has not indicated any action in respect of farrowing crates, which are even more restrictive than sow stalls.

Chickens and turkeys:

  • life-long confinement indoors, including (for egg-laying hens) cages;
  • beak trimming of chickens without anaesthetic;
  • removing the snood of turkeys (the skin drooping from the forehead) without anaesthetic;
  • removing terminal segment of males’ inward pointing toes without anaesthetic;
  • killing of “surplus” chicks (mainly male) in the egg industry through gassing with CO2 or by “quick maceration”, whereby they are sent along a conveyor belt to an industrial grinder while still alive.

Cattle:

  • castration without anaesthetic if under six months old or, under certain circumstances, at an older age;
  • dehorning without anaesthetic if under six months old or, under certain circumstances, at an older age;
  • disbudding (prior to horns growing) without anaesthetic. Caustic chemicals may be used for that process under certain circumstances, including an age of less than fourteen days;
  • hot iron branding without anaesthetic;
  • forced separation of cows and calves in the dairy industry within a day of birth to enable human access to the cow’s milk, with most male calves being sent to slaughter and many females retained for future production.

All:

  • forced breeding, often involving stimulation by humans, penetration with artificial devices, and ongoing confinement.

Here’s an image of a calf being branded with a hot iron, which I included in my submission responding to the draft plan.

Here’s an example of group housing of sows, which is the main alternative to sow stalls. [Footnote 2]

What appears to be the intended continuation of exemptions in respect of practices such as those described above is particularly damning when a stated outcome in relation to the legal framework is for the law to provide for “reasonable and considerate treatment of all animals, regardless of species, use or activity”.

Does this mean that the relevant practices are considered “reasonable and considerate” for “production animals”, when many could result in jail terms if committed on companion animals?

Conclusion

With the release of the new plan, the Victorian government has effectively abandoned animals and misled the community.  The plan represents a classic and tragic example of government doublespeak and disregard for others. We and the animals deserve much better.

Author

Paul Mahony

Footnotes

  1. For the purpose of the article, my usage of the word “animal” is based on the definition used in the plan, being “an animal covered by Victorian animal welfare legislation”.
  2. In nature, pigs are clean animals, and do not defecate where they eat and sleep. Wallowing in mud is an evolved behaviour, which they share with other animals, such as the hippopotamus. In a paper published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, researcher Marc Bracke from the Wageningen University and Research Centre reported that pigs and other wallowing animals did not develop functional sweat glands because wallowing was a part of their lifestyle. The mud now helps them to regulate their body temperature. Most pigs and other production animals lack the opportunity to undertake natural behaviours, with resultant detrimental impacts on their well-being.

References

Mahony, P., “Submission in Response to Victorian State Government’s Draft Action Plan 2016 – 2021 ‘Improving the Welfare of Animals in Victoria'”, 11th October 2016, https://terrastendo.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/vic-animal-welfare-submission-p-mahony-v-2.pdf

Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, “Animal Welfare Action Plan” (accessed 7th January 2018), http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare/animal-welfare-action-plan

Agriculture Victoria, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Legislation”, http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare/animal-welfare-legislation/prevention-of-cruelty-to-animals-legislation

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, “Victoria’s Animal Welfare Action Plan”, 18th December 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTdl8EfHP5w

Preiss, B., “New laws to recognise pain and fear suffered by animals”, The Age, 31st December 2017, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/new-laws-to-recognise-pain-and-fear-suffered-by-animals-20171231-h0bs2a.html

Mahony, P., “Open Letter to Jaala Pulford”, Terrastendo, 31st March 2016, https://terrastendo.net/2016/03/31/open-letter-to-jaala-pulford/

Bracke, M.B.M., “Review of wallowing in pigs: Description of the behaviour and its motivational basis”, Applied Animal Behaviour Science , Volume 132 , Issue 1 , 1 – 13, http://www.appliedanimalbehaviour.com/article/S0168-1591(11)00021-9/fulltext, cited in Braconnier, D., “Wallowing in mud is more than just temperature control”, Phys.org, 2nd May 2011, https://phys.org/news/2011-05-wallowing-mud-temperature.html

Images

© Frances Jane Lea, “Alpaca Llama Lama”, Shutterstock

© androdphoto, “Branding a calf”, iStock

© Aussiepigs.com, Golden Grove Piggery, NSW 2013

Related articles

Victorian animal cruelty

The following email was sent to Youth Food Movement Australia on 1st December 2017:

Hello,

I refer to your Facebook comment of 21st November 2017, inviting me to contact you at this email address regarding my article “Some questions for Youth Food Movement Australia“.

You indicated in your comment that we had “chatted” about your approach previously. However, I received little more than the following comment:

“#beefjam is a project collaboration with @Target100AUS amazeballs crew.”

You never responded to my Facebook question of 25th July 2015:

“What about misinformation promoted by Target 100 and published by Meat & Livestock Australia in the form of its primary level (age 5-12) ‘study guide’, ‘Cattle and the environment‘?“

You have also not responded to the straightforward questions contained in my latest article, as referred to above.

Nor have you commented on these extracts from that article:

  • The links between YFM and the livestock sector also include the fact that co-founder, Joanna Baker, spent nearly two years (while also holding senior positions with YFM) as manager for membership, communications and policy at Dairy Connect. That organisation describes itself as “an advocacy body, 100% focused on being the voice for all partners in the dairy industry”.
    xxx
  • The other YFM co-founder, Alexandra Iljadica, was a speaker at the two-day 2016 Australian Dairy Conference, sharing speaking duties with high-profile industry participants. She was given two speaking opportunities; a plenary speech and a workshop, with the title of the latter being, “How to herd consumers toward Australian dairy: A workshop in human behaviour change”.

As I said in my Facebook comments, the issues apply to much more than BeefJam, including the forced and permanent separation of cows and calves as a fundamental aspect of dairy production in all its forms (with the calves sent to slaughter or retained to become dairy cows themselves). Also the maceration (and other forms of killing) of male chicks as a fundamental aspect of supplying layer hens for all forms of egg production.

I would have thought the issues I have raised would be of interest to many of your subscribers, volunteers and others who follow you, including people who have attended your “meet the maker” events (including the event with dairy and egg producers) and those who generally rely on your “food education projects”.

I look forward to hearing from you in a display of your professed values of transparency and authenticity.

Regards,

Paul Mahony

 

Image

Unconsciously Cruel via Aussie Farms, Untitled showing sheep at Ballarat Saleyards, Alfredton, Victoria

I have written three articles dealing with Youth Food Movement Australia (YFM) and its relationships with the animal agriculture sector. Links to the articles can be found below this post, which outlines some questions for the organisation in the form of memes.

Some of the memes refer to “BeefJam”, which was a project in which YFM collaborated with “Target 100”, an initiative of: Meat & Livestock Australia; Australian Lot Feeders Association; Sheep Meat Council of Australia; Cattle Council of Australia; and Australian Meat Industry Council.

YFM has described BeefJam as “a 3-day event that takes young producers and consumers on a crash course of the Australian beef supply chain and gives them 48hrs to reshape the way we grow, buy and eat our red meat.

I’ve seen some very slick videos released jointly by Target 100 and YFM about the event that look to me like promotions for the meat industry. However, I have seen no evidence of the fifteen “young consumers” and “young producers” who attended reshaping the industry.

The links between YFM and the livestock sector also include the fact that co-founder, Joanna Baker, spent nearly two years (while also holding senior positions with YFM) as manager for membership, communications and policy at Dairy Connect. That organisation describes itself as “an advocacy body, 100% focused on being the voice for all partners in the dairy industry”.

The other YFM co-founder, Alexandra Iljadica, was a speaker at the two-day 2016 Australian Dairy Conference, sharing speaking duties with high-profile industry participants. She was given two speaking opportunities; a plenary speech and a workshop, with the title of the latter being, “How to herd consumers toward Australian dairy: A workshop in human behaviour change”.

I believe it is important for YFM to keep in mind its professed values of transparency and authenticity and its stated role of  running “food education projects for young people”.

Here are the memes. I hope they cause those involved with YFM to consider issues involved in food consumption beyond those that the organisation appears to have addressed to date.

Conclusion

I believe any group that states its mission is to “grow a generation of young Australians empowered with the ability to make healthy and sustainable food choices” must highlight the issues raised in this post.

I look forward to seeing if YFM addresses the issues in future.

Author

Paul Mahony

References

Animals Australia, “What you never knew about dairy”, http://www.animalsaustralia.org/issues/dairy.php

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle, http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/cattle/

Kroon, F., Turner, R., Smith, R., Warne, M., Hunter, H., Bartley, R., Wilkinson, S., Lewis, S., Waters, D., Caroll, C., 2013 “Scientific Consensus Statement: Sources of sediment, nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants in the Great Barrier Reef Catchment”, Ch. 4, p. 12, The State of Queensland, Reef Water Quality Protection Plan Secretariat, July, 2013, http://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/about/scientific-consensus-statement/sources-of-pollutants.aspx

Brodie, J., “Great Barrier Reef dying beneath its crown of thorns”, The Conversation, 16th April, 2012, http://theconversation.com/great-barrier-reef-dying-beneath-its-crown-of-thorns-6383

Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, 2016. Land cover change in Queensland 2015–16: Statewide Landcover and Trees Study report. DSITI, Brisbane

World Wide Fund for Nature, “Accelerating bushland destruction in Queensland: Clearing under Self Assessable Codes takes major leap upward”, March 2017, http://www.wwf.org.au/ArticleDocuments/360/pub-accelerating-bushland-destruction-in-queensland-21mar17.pdf.aspx?Embed=Yx

Harper, L.A., Denmead, O.T., Freney, J.R., and Byers, F.M., Journal of Animal Science, June, 1999, “Direct measurements of methane emissions from grazing and feedlot cattle”, J ANIM SCI, 1999, 77:1392-1401, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10375217; http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/77/6/1392.full.pdf

Eshel, G., “Grass-fed beef packs a punch to environment”, Reuters Environment Forum, 8 Apr 2010, http://blogs.reuters.com/environment/2010/04/08/grass-fed-beef-packs-a-punch-to-environment/

Wedderburn-Bisshop, G., Longmire, A., Rickards, L., “Neglected Transformational Responses: Implications of Excluding Short Lived Emissions and Near Term Projections in Greenhouse Gas Accounting”, International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 7, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.11-27. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: August 17, 2015, http://ijc.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.185/prod.269

Springmann, M., Godfray, H.C.J., Rayner, M., Scarborough, P., “Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change”, PNAS 2016 113 (15) 4146-4151; published ahead of print March 21, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1523119113, (print edition 12 Apr 2016), http://www.pnas.org/content/113/15/4146.full and http://www.pnas.org/content/113/15/4146.full.pdf

Images

Bear Witness Australia and Aussie Farms | 5-day old bobby calves from the dairy industry | The Aussie Farms Repository | https://www.aussiefarms.org.au/photos/food/dairy

Branding a calf | anrodphoto | iStock

Brian Kinney | Wonderful and beautiful underwater world with corals and tropical fish | Shutterstock

The Wilderness Society | Land clearing: Olive Vale, Queensland, 2014 (Youtube video) | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc06o7ayx-g

Sherjarca | Australian beef cattle charolais bred for meat | Shutterstock

Nyul | Medical team in operating room | Dreamstime.com

Youth Food Movement Australia | YFM logo badge only | Flickr | Creative Commons NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

https://www.aussiefarms.org.au/uploads/photos/2052-000015360-3e9e74f6f9e27dba8e69.jpg

I have written previously of my concerns regarding the practices of Youth Food Movement Australia (YFM). Those concerns relate primarily to YFM’s close relationship with the meat and dairy industries, while seemingly saying nothing meaningful (and possibly nothing at all) about the negative impacts of those industries in terms of animal cruelty, environmental damage (including climate change) and human health.

Is its failure to highlight such issues inconsistent with the group’s stated values of authenticity and transparency? Possibly, but I am not in a position to explain its reasons for ignoring such critical issues.

However, I am able to convey publicly available information about the group’s involvement with the industries.

I admit to finding it odd that co-founder Joanna Baker, while still in senior positions with YFM, spent nearly two years as manager for membership, communications and policy with Dairy Connect, an organisation advocating on behalf of the dairy industry.

I am uncomfortable with the industry relationships in the context of YFM describing its role “in a nutshell” as running “food education projects for young people”.

It also claims to “provide a place – be that in pubs, in living rooms, on laptop screens – for information and skills to be exchanged and for learning to happen”.

I recently discovered another industry relationship in the form of co-founder Alexandra Iljadica’s involvement in the two-day 2016 Australian Dairy Conference.

Iljadica was a presenter, sharing speaking duties with industry luminaries such as: Abhy Maharaj, Chief Financial Officer and Commercial Director of Fonterra Australia; Barry Irvin, Executive Chair of Bega Cheese Ltd; and Philip Tracey, the then Chair of Murray Goulburn (at the time Australia’s largest dairy company and co-operative).

She was given two speaking opportunities; a plenary speech and a workshop. I found the online workshop slide show of particular interest.

Remember that Iljadica at the time was a founding director, and soon to be CEO, of a group that has said its mission is to “grow a generation of young Australians empowered with the ability to make healthy and sustainable food choices”.

A group with stated values (as mentioned earlier) of authenticity and transparency.

But also a group whose co-founder and future CEO presented a workshop session at the 2016 national dairy industry conference with the title:

“HOW TO HERD CONSUMERS TOWARD AUSTRALIAN DAIRY: A WORKSHOP IN HUMAN BEHAVIOUR CHANGE”

Is that the aim, regardless of the consequences for the animals, the planet and the health of YFM supporters and others who follow them?

So what are Iljadica’s recommended methods for herding youthful consumers toward the dairy industry?

Her tips (citing the book “Changeology” by Les Robinson) included (among six necessary characteristics overall): “positive buzz”; “an enabling environment”; and “the right inviter”

Immediately after Iljadica’s slides listed the six characteristics, another asked how those characteristics might apply to dairy.

Immediately following that came the concluding “thank you” slide, showing a YFM registration desk and people wearing YFM gear at an outdoor event.

The message I took from the slide show (without attending the presentation itself): The “right inviter” for the dairy industry, and the group with the other necessary characteristics, is Youth Food Movement Australia.

I’m liking YFM less every day.

Author

Paul Mahony

Further information

Do you love dairy? Please check out this video of forced separation of mothers and calves on a Tasmanian dairy farm. This standard practice occurs for the purpose of ensuring the mothers’ milk finds its way to supermarket shelves rather than the calves’ stomachs. The calves are generally either slaughtered for meat or raised for a life of misery as producers of milk many times beyond what would occur naturally, enduring physical and psychological distress and many more forced separations.

Source: Aussie Farms Repository, aussiefarms.org.au/videos/food/dairy, supplied by DropDairy.com.au, a campaign by Animal Liberation (animal-lib.org.au) and Animal Liberation Tas (al-tas.org).

Image

Bear Witness Australia on The Aussie Farms Repository, aussiefarms.org.au/photos/food/dairy

Caption: “As I was around these dairy farms, there were just paddocks full of calves without their mothers. Calling for their mothers, just so alone. There was one paddock that had recently been occupied by bobby calves, and as I was walking along the fence next to the main road, I saw a dead calf lying on the ground. He was not more than a week dead, he just lay there in the paddock. I discovered another dead calf further along the fence, that had also died alone, without his mother. This was just next to the fence, on the main road, so I can’t imagine how many more would have died out of sight. Both dead calves that I found would have had mothers that loved them and cared for them, and that right was taken away from them just so someone can have a glass of her milk. I can’t imagine their pain. Witness #4″

Sources

Youth Food Movement Australia, “About”, http://www.youthfoodmovement.org.au/about-us/

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Annual Information Statement 2015, Youth Food Movement Australia Ltd, https://www.acnc.gov.au/AIS2015?ID=8E78E032-C0CF-482B-9879-DF609B494B6E&noleft=1

Australian Dairy Conference, http://www.australiandairyconference.com.au/viewStory/Past+Conferences

Alexandra Iljadica, “How to herd consumers toward Australian dairy: A workshop in human behaviour change”, 2016 Australian Dairy Conference, http://www.australiandairyconference.com.au/inewsfiles/ADC_2016_Presentations/Alexandra_Iljadica_-_Human_Behaviour_Change_Workshop_18-02-16.pdf

The latest campaign by Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) maintains the group’s almost complete lack of interest in the massive contribution of animal agriculture to: (a) climate change; and (b) destruction of Great Barrier Reef corals.

The latest campaign

Title: “For the love of the reef

The campaign is being run in conjunction with an AYCC branch known as SEED, which describes itself as “Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network”.

Related campaign

Title: “The 3 degree challenge

While also focusing on the Great Barrier Reef, the page highlights the impact of increasing global temperature on the production of sugar, wheat and meat.

The idea

For the main “for the love of the reef” campaign, AYCC is asking participants to go without something they enjoy for around two weeks. They have specified coffee, chocolate or avocado, seemingly assuming that people like at least one of those items.

Participants ask others to donate funds in recognition of their sacrifice. The funds are intended to assist AYCC’s reef campaigns.

For a supposedly more difficult challenge (presumably involving higher donations), participants can take “the 3 degree challenge”, in which they go without all three of the specified products.

Some history

AYCC ran a similar campaign in early 2016, with the title “For the love of our future”. Like this year’s campaign, it was run in conjunction with the “3 degree challenge”. On the challenge website (like this year), AYCC bemoaned the impact of climate change on beef production, completely ignoring the massive impact of that industry on climate change and the Great Barrier Reef.

In response to me highlighting the irony of their position, they added the words: “Going without meat for 2 weeks can also have a big impact in reducing your carbon footprint, as meat production contributes to global warming.”

Bizarrely, they retained the comment expressing concern over the impact of climate change on beef production.

I find it interesting that they seemed to assume that participants were regular meat eaters.

The current position

This year, AYCC has added another comment to its “3 degree challenge” page under the heading “A note on animal agriculture”. That note exemplifies AYCC’s failure to disclose critical information, as referred to below.

AYCC’s professed knowledge of animal agriculture’s impacts is limited to methane emissions

If I were to walk down the street and ask people to tell me what they knew about animal agriculture’s impact on global warming, most who responded may focus on one word: METHANE

That’s what AYCC has done on its “3 degree challenge” page.

Its only reference to livestock production’s negative impacts, in a campaign that addresses climate change and the destruction of corals, relates to methane, when the relevant factors are far more extensive than that single greenhouse gas.

That’s from a group whose reason for existence is to lead “solutions to the climate crisis”!

Such an approach is particularly concerning on a website focusing on the Great Barrier Reef, when many additional factors destroy corals or cause them to be less resilient than they would otherwise have been to the impacts of warming waters.

What is AYCC failing to disclose?

The issues have been covered extensively in articles on this site, including (in relation to land clearing and the reef) “Meat Eaters vs the Great Barrier Reef” and “Beef, the reef and rugby: We have a problem“. Here are some key points.

1.  Climate Change

Livestock’s climate change impacts arise from many inter-related factors, such as:

(a) its inherent inefficiency as a food source;

(b) the massive scale of the industry;

(c) resultant land clearing far beyond what would otherwise be required to satisfy our nutritional requirements;

(d) greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide; and

(e) other warming agents such as tropospheric ozone (derived from precursors such as volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide) and black carbon.

It is important to note that official figures under-report animal agriculture’s overall and proportional emissions because relevant factors are: (a) omitted entirely, e.g. tropospheric ozone; (b) classified under different headings, e.g. livestock-related land clearing reported within the category “land use, land use change and forestry” (LULUCF); and (c) considered but with conservative calculations, e.g. methane’s impact based on a 100-year, rather than 20-year, basis for determining its “global warming potential” (GWP).

As acknowledged by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the choice of GWP time horizon is a value judgement. The shorter time horizon is critical in the context of climate change tipping points, beyond which we can lose any chance of influencing the climate system in a positive manner.

The land clearing is a double-edged sword, as it releases carbon in the form of CO2 from soil and vegetation, while reducing the biosphere’s ability to draw existing CO2 from the atmosphere.

In Queensland alone, livestock-related land clearing since 1988 (when detailed records began) has represented 91 per cent of total land clearing. It has equated to more than 11 million rugby fields at rates of 42 per hour overall and 50 per hour in 2015/16. For American readers, that equates to 17.5 million American football fields at rates of 71 per hour overall and 79 per hour in 2015/16. This chart shows the full record:

Here’s a short video from The Wilderness Society, showing land clearing on a northern Queensland cattle station in 2014 using two bulldozers connected by a huge chain. This widely-used method was introduced in the 1950s, with devastating consequences.

Reducing fossil fuel usage (which is AYCC’s focus) is an essential measure in our efforts to overcome climate change. However, even if we were to optimistically assume that global efforts in that regard will increase markedly from current levels, it would not be enough on its own.

Another double-edged sword in the battle against climate change can be found in the fact that reducing fossil fuel usage results in lower concentrations of atmospheric aerosols, the existence of which has a cooling effect (referred to as global dimming). In an effort to reduce the increase in temperature that would result from a reduction in aerosols, and to reduce temperatures from their present levels, we must draw down carbon as rapidly as possible through reforestation and other measures. We must also prevent further deforestation. We will not adequately address those issues without a general transition away from animals as a food source.

Methane and various other warming agents mentioned here have much shorter life spans than CO2. As a result, appropriate action will provide rapid benefits. That is critical in terms of global dimming and climate change tipping points. (AYCC’s “challenge” page fails dismally in relation to the timing issues.)

2. Great Barrier Reef

Like most climate change campaign groups that comment on the loss of coral reefs, AYCC focuses on the issue of coral bleaching caused by warming waters. Although that is a critical issue, other critical factors were affecting the reef’s corals decades before the first major bleaching event in 1998, and their destructive force continues.

They are tropical cyclones and predation by crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS). As demonstrated in the following chart, 57 per cent of coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef had occurred by 1985, thirteen years before the first major bleaching event.

Dr Jon Brodie from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, has reported that COTS were likely to have been the main cause between 1960 and 1985.

Dr Glenn De’ath and colleagues from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Wollongong University have allocated causation between 1985 and 2012 as: cyclones 48 per cent; COTS 42 per cent; and bleaching 10%.

Like fossil fuel usage, animal agriculture contributes to warming waters and cyclone intensity through its significant global warming impact.

It also has other significant impacts on the reef.

Erosion caused by grazing on cleared and uncleared lands has released sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus to the reef’s waters via nearby streams and rivers. The sediment blocks the sun and smothers coral, making it less resilient than it would otherwise have been to the impacts of other stressors, such as warming waters.

The fertilisers promote the growth phytoplankton that are a food source for crown-of-thorns starfish larvae. Adult starfish eat nothing but coral, and have had a devastating impact. They were doing so decades before the first coral bleaching event in 1998, and the destruction is continuing.

The Queensland government’s 2013 Scientific Consensus Statement reported that livestock grazing was responsible for 75 per cent of sediment, 54 per cent of phosphorus and 40 per cent of nitrogen in the Great Barrier Reef’s waters.

Here’s an example of gully erosion initiated by cattle grazing on a property in northern Queensland.

© Griffith University – Andrew Brooks

Conclusion

AYCC and other climate change campaign groups are wasting their time if they ignore the impacts of animal agriculture on the climate and the Great Barrier Reef.

We face an emergency in respect of each issue, with action on animal agriculture representing a relatively fast, low-cost means of helping us to reach critical targets.

It must be included in our efforts if we are to have any chance of overcoming the climate crisis and saving natural wonders such as the reef.

Author

Paul Mahony

Sources

Australian Youth Climate Coalition, “For the love of the reef”, https://fortheloveof.org.au/

Australian Youth Climate Coalition, “3 Degree Challenge”, https://fortheloveof.org.au/page/3-degree-challenge

Myhre, G., Shindell, D., Bréon, F.-M., Collins, W., Fuglestvedt, J., Huang, J., Koch, D., Lamarque, J.-F., Lee, D., Mendoza, B., Nakajima, T., Robock, A., Stephens, G., Takemura, T., and Zhang, H., 2013: “Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” , pp. 711-712 [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/

Brodie, J., “Great Barrier Reef dying beneath its crown of thorns”, The Conversation, 16th April, 2012, http://theconversation.com/great-barrier-reef-dying-beneath-its-crown-of-thorns-6383

De’ath, G., Katharina Fabricius, K.E., Sweatman, H., Puotinen, M., “The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes”, PNAS 2012 109 (44) 17995-17999; published ahead of print October 1, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1208909109, http://www.pnas.org/citmgr?gca=pnas%3B109%2F44%2F17995

Stella, J., Pears, R., Wachenfeld, D., “Interim Report: 2016 Coral Bleaching Event on the Great Barrier Reef”, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, September 2016, http://elibrary.gbrmpa.gov.au/jspui/bitstream/11017/3044/5/Interim%20report%20on%202016%20coral%20bleaching%20event%20in%20GBRMP.pdf

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Reef Health, 29 May 2017, http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/media-room/reef-health

Professor Terry Hughes on Twitter, 21st May 2017

Kroon, F., Turner, R., Smith, R., Warne, M., Hunter, H., Bartley, R., Wilkinson, S., Lewis, S., Waters, D., Caroll, C., 2013 “Scientific Consensus Statement: Sources of sediment, nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants in the Great Barrier Reef Catchment”, Ch. 4, p. 12, The State of Queensland, Reef Water Quality Protection Plan Secretariat, July, 2013, http://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/about/scientific-consensus-statement/sources-of-pollutants.aspx

Images

Wonderful and beautiful underwater world with corals and tropical fish © Brian Kinney | Shutterstock

Football Field © Lucadp | Dreamstime.com

Cow flat icon © RaulAlmu | Shutterstock | ID: 516517108

Gully Erosion © Andrew Brooks, Griffith University

Video

The Wilderness Society | Land Clearing, Olive Vale, Qld, 2014 | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc06o7ayx-g

The New South Wales government’s Office of Environment and Heritage has just announced the winners of its 2017 Green Globe Awards, which are supposedly designed to “showcase people and projects making real progress toward sustainability” across the state.

This is the conservative government that passed legislation in 2016 to repeal the Native Vegetation Act, with a large increase in land clearing seemingly inevitable, involving increased carbon emissions, loss of ongoing sequestration and destruction of wildlife habitat. The repeal took effect in August this year.

It was in anticipation of such law changes in NSW and Queensland (and the livestock-related clearing that would result) that the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) listed eastern Australia as one of eleven global deforestation fronts for the period to 2030.

The NSW government’s poor legislative performance in relation to the environment may be consistent with it naming Youth Food Movement Australia (YFM) and one of its co-founders, Alexandra Iljadica, as finalists in the categories of Community Leadership and Sustainability Champion, with Iljadica winning the latter.

The main driver of land clearing in Australia and around the world is livestock production. In Queensland alone, livestock-related clearing since 1988 (when detailed records began) has represented 91 per cent of total clearing. It has equated to more than 11 million rugby fields at rates of 42 per hour overall and 50 per hour in 2015/16.

Despite that appalling record, YFM supports the sector and has failed miserably to highlight its negative environmental and other impacts.

Cattle grazing on cleared and uncleared land in Queensland has also contributed massively to the ongoing demise of the Great Barrier Reef’s corals. Erosion caused by grazing has released sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus to the reef’s waters. The sediment blocks the sun and smothers coral, making it less resilient than it would otherwise have been to the impacts of other stressors, such as warming waters. [Footnote 1]

The fertilisers promote algal growth that is a food source for crown-of-thorns starfish larvae. Adult starfish eat nothing but coral, and have had a devastating impact. They were doing so decades before the first coral bleaching event in 1998, and the destruction is continuing.

As I have reported previously, YFM has collaborated with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) via its Target 100 “initiative” on some very questionable projects. A key output from one of those was what appeared to be an MLA promotional video, laughably described by the two organisations as a “documentary”. The video featured Iljadica’s fellow YFM co-founder, Joanna Baker. [Footnote 2]

Joanna Baker (left) and Alexandra Iljadica, YFM Australia

MLA is no mug in the PR game, and has won advertising industry awards such as Marketing Team of the Year and Advertiser of the Year. It has utilised  firms with expertise in PR, branding or advertising, such as: Republic of Everyone; Totem; One Green Bean; BMF; and The Monkeys, and prefers the term “community engagement” over “PR”.

The promotional concepts have included “Bettertarian”; “#Goodmeat”; “You’re better on beef”; “Generation Lamb”; “The beef oracle”; “The Opponent”; and Australia Day campaigns such as “Richie’s BBQ” and “Boat People”.

Republic of Everyone has also been nominated for a Green Globe Award. In addition to the “Bettertarian” campaign (launched by MLA as a “counter campaign” during Meat Free Week), its work for MLA has included graphics proclaiming the supposed health benefits of eating red meat. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

That’s from a firm that claims to only create projects “that make the world a better place”, where “everything is fair” and where no animals are “harmed in the making”.

Why doesn’t it tell people that forced breeding, tail docking, castration and hot iron branding (all without pain prevention or relief) are all routine aspects of beef production?

Why doesn’t it tell people about the true environmental and health impacts of the industry?

Why doesn’t YFM do the same?

MLA prefers to provide primary school children with so-called “curriculum study guides”, containing erroneous information about its members’ products.

Another YFM link with the livestock sector involves Dairy Connect, a group based in New South Wales, which describes itself as “an advocacy body, 100% focused on being the voice for all partners in the dairy industry”.

During most of 2014 and 2015, Joanna Baker was Dairy Connect’s manager for membership, communications and policy. While in that role, she was also in senior positions with YFM.

I am not in a position to explain the motivation behind the collaborations and relationships mentioned here, but I do wonder if the Green Globes are effectively nothing more than straw man awards, with some straw man nominees.

Author

Paul Mahony

Footnotes

  1. The Queensland government’s 2013 Scientific Consensus Statement reported that livestock grazing was responsible for 75% of sediment, 54% of phosphorus and 40% of nitrogen in the Great Barrier Reef’s waters.
  2. In addition to MLA, the Target 100 “initiative” involves Cattle Council of Australia, Sheepmeat Council of Australia, Australian Meat Industry Council, Australian Lot Feeders Association and Australian Meat Processing Corporation. MLA maintains copyright over the Target 100 website, and some material (e.g. the so-called “curriculum study guides”) has been released under MLA’s name.

Images

Paul Looyen | A herd of cattle in pasture, standing in early morning fog | Shutterstock

Zo Zhou | Guerrilla Dinner 2013 | Flickr | Creative Commons NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Update

Footnote 2 added 23 October 2017 with minor text amendments.

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