Hmm, wonder if they’ve thought this through?

Meat should be taxed to encourage people to eat less of it, so reducing the production of global warming gases from sheep, cattle and goats, according to a group of scientists.

Several high-profile figures, from the chief of the UN’s climate science panel to the economist Lord Stern, have previously advocated eating less meat to tackle global warming.

The scientists’ analysis, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, takes the contentious step of suggesting methane emissions be cut by pushing up the price of meat through a tax or emissions trading scheme.

“Influencing human behaviour is one of the most challenging aspects of any large-scale policy, and it is unlikely that a large-scale dietary change will happen voluntarily without incentives,” they say. “Implementing a tax or emission trading scheme on livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions could be an economically sound policy that would modify consumer prices and affect consumption patterns.”

Y’see, the thing is…..pasture locks up huge amounts of carbon in the soil. Much more, over time, than forests. And yes, having the cows out there eating the grass then defecating on it does indeed lead to more carbon sequestration in pasture.

Meaning that what we actually want to know is the net emissions from grazed pasture, not the gross emissions from ruminants.

Anyone know that answer?

36 comments on “Hmm, wonder if they’ve thought this through?

  1. Aren’t most livestock not grown in pasture, though?

    I know you find you’re paying extra for “grass-fed beef” these days.

  2. You’ve got to love The Guardian. On the one hand it’s food poverty and on the other it’s taxing food. Reminds me of those women’s magazines with the latest diet on page 6 and “The World’s Best Chocolate Cake” recipe on page 18. Confused? You will be.

  3. Two likely answers:

    1. Use the taxes raised on meat farming to subsidise farmers to take over bankrupt farmers land, raise cattle on them, keep them humanely until they pop their clogs then bury the carcasses because meat is bad for you.

    2. Label all those opposed to the tax as “climate change deniers”. Job done.

    Besides which, if they are taxing emissions I thought you’d be in favour of that. It’s not as if there isn’t plentiful thin gruel for the peasants to gorge on.

  4. BTW, the thin gruel reads like I’m having a go at Tim, which I’m not – it’s a dig at the eco-loonies who indeed think the lower orders should eat thus.

  5. This is a first – I may agree with that odious little Wiki-warrior. What is the evidence that grass land locks in more carbon than a forest?

    Bearing in mind that forests are not only a good deal taller, they go a good deal deeper.

  6. Of course, even Mr Liar Connelly would need to acknowledge that ruminants themselves don’t generate any methane, or at least vanishingly small amounts. The methane is generated by microbes that live (amongst other places) inside the ruminants where they help digest the otherwise not very nutritous grasses.

    If there were no ruminants and the grass just grew and died, guess what would happen to it, it would of course decay and be processed by the same sort of microbes (not identical), and in the process methane would be given off. The ruminants merely speed the process up a little, but it’s still a natural cycle.

    The major generators of methane are boreal forests and intensive rice cropping anyway, albeit through microbes again, but far more methane is generated that way than through ruminants. Are they recommending destroying the forests and stopping rice harvesting………thought not.

  7. I don’t think you need an answer to the “net emissions from grazed pasture, not the gross emissions from ruminants” question.
    You’re forgetting something. irrespective of livestock, pasture will be eaten. If it wasn’t you’d end up with an awful lot of grass. And the animals that will eat the pasture, beetles, caterpillars, snails, slugs, you name it, all have digestive systems utilise similar bacteria to break down cellulose in exactly the same way, producing exactly the same gasses in the process. because, when it comes down to it, it’s all just chemistry. A ton of grass put through a ton of cow results in exactly the same gas production as a ton of grass through a ton of beetle. The chemistry couldn’t give a damn.
    Furthermore. Humans eat cow. Beetles also get eaten. Beetle eaters. Cow eaters. Again, the digestive process is the same. All comes down to chemistry & ends up with bacteria. The same bacteria.
    The only thing on the planet not subject to chemistry is journalists. And I’m going to take a blind leap here. I really haven’t followed the link. You’re commenting on Lean here, aren’t you? Who knows sweet FA about anything.

  8. @SMfS
    “What is the evidence that grass land locks in more carbon than a forest?2
    The evidence is in the words “archeological dig”. The dig part. like if you want to have a look at a Roman building (like the one I can see from my window) you have to dig down through 6 foot of accumulated soil. Whereas, if you take a stroll down to your nearest bit of ancestral woodland with a spade, you’ll hit clay or gravel after a few inches. Forest doesn’t produce soil.
    The soil can be up to 40% carbon. The clay isn’t.

  9. Surely peat is the best sequestration mechanism rather than lowland pasture where you find most cows..If you want to support the greenies, have lots of grouse moors, with a few sheep.

  10. I suppose they are not seeing the wood for the trees.

    Having spent decades trying to scare the shit out of us by telling us we are killing Gaea, so that they can make a lot of money despite being very stupid people, they really have lost the plot.

    Now they’re having a go at their own Goddess for committing suicide…

  11. It’s not, and never has been, about “the science”.

    These fuckers won’t be happy till we’re living in yurts and subsisting on lentils.

    We should hang them.

  12. BIS
    On the archaeological dig and rising pasture – I thought the remains gradually sank, possibly because of wormholes, maybe because of their weight. And Romney Marsh has been pasture for 200 (?) years, but it’s still below sea level.

  13. The answer is that the entire catastrophic global warming campaign has nothing to do with cutting carbon, any more than any “environmental” campaign is about the environment, otherwise nothing would stop them, the politicians, the state media etc prosletising day and night for a massive build of nuclear plants.

    The entire purpose of these campaigns is to make us put up with more government control and a falling standard of living.

    So it really doesn’t matter a toss whether something produces more, less or an unaltered amount of CO2, just so long as we commoners get bullied.

  14. @Luke
    Think for a sec. The ground wouldn’t be specifically sinking ruined buildings & & items of archeological interest. it’d be sinking everything. There’s no appreciable difference between the weight of a brick & the clay it’s standing on. Bricks are just fired clay.
    Soil build up & rate of deposition is quite complicated. It’s actually quite slow under pasture. Under an inch a century. But grass also traps windblown dust & particles moving with surface water so that’s an average. Turf on chalkdowns is only 2-3 inches because the soil washes into the valleys. Further downslope it can be yards deep. So the depth of soil on Romney Marsh would depend on deposition.rates there.
    Good indicator of soil deposition is Victorian parks. The paths were originally laid slightly proud to shed water & have very little imposed load, so there’s no particular reason to sink. Generally, they’re now below the general soil level by a couple inches despite there will have been repeated resurfacing done on them, over the years. And that’s with mowing & removal of cuttings, not grazing where all the organics bar the animal itself remain to produce soil.

  15. Surely the same types of animals producing the meat are producing the dairy too? Does a Freesian cow produce no methane while an Angus cow produces lots?
    A tax on meat to encourage less to be eaten sounds like a ‘veggie’ attack on people who are different. How much less dairy do we need? That probiotic yoghurt, that skimmed milk, sorry we need to encourage people to buy less of that so lets tax it too.

  16. BIS,

    “Think for a sec. The ground wouldn’t be specifically sinking ruined buildings & & items of archeological interest. it’d be sinking everything.”

    the wormhole theory IIRC, is that the holes make the ground sink, but the casts counteract that in general. So the net effect on the level of the soil is nil, but non-soil things sink.

    Typing that out, I’m not very convinced myself. But buildings can sink – one of my clients devised a piling system that not only failed to support the buildings but actively sucked them into the ground. (“Negative skin friction” I think.)

    But leaving aside archaeology, (a) this is not the first time I have heard that grassland is a carbon sink, so you/Tim may well have a point but (b) can someone please put Tim right on his fantasy that we all eat free range purely grass fed organic cattle.

  17. @ Luke
    “eat free range purely grass fed organic cattle.”
    I, for one, do because my butcher buys from local farmers, who have haystacks and/or silage.
    More generally, UK Agricultural statistics says that 12.4m acres are grassland/rough grazing (*excluding* cropland left fallow) as against 4.6m acres under all crops. Dairy cows outnumber beef cattle and require winter feed whereas many beef cattle are slaughtered in/at the approach of winter. So Tim’s quite a bit nearer the mark than the nuts who pretend that cattle are all fed wholly on corn. Of course the truth is somewhere in-between.

  18. I wonder what the green lunatics think of pets? At least cattle produce food, even if the green fascists despise it. Just think of all those proles with their millions of useless cats and dogs, all eating meat and adding nothing of value to the State.

  19. @Luke
    The wormhole theory sounds pretty week to me. Just looking at the villa down the road, the foundations & bottom courses that’ve survived show not the slightest disturbance from subsidence. The render on the bath pool hasn’t a crack. So unless Andalucian worms come equipped with spirit levels… But judging by the sides of the excavation there’s been about 2 meters of soil deposited. Along with odds & sods from the Caliphate & post reconquest. All fine dark till. Deep, but what you’d expect from flat area getting run off from 1000m heights.

    Know what you mean about the dietary presumptions but again, it’s irrelevant. Even from shed raised, the slurry gets put on the fields. May even be higher carbon capture as plowed land produces soil faster. The important thing is all organic material goes through the same cycle & the cycle doesn’t prefer which particular expression of animal digestion it’s utilising. The chemistry’s the same.

  20. I see …Influencing human behaviour is one of the most challenging aspects of any large-scale policy,…

    Fuckem, and their whole dictatorial attitude. Who is this tosser? What right has he to talk about what I put on my plate?

    Fuck him 10 time over, and then again!

  21. Aaah! Romney Marsh. What a great player! Turned out for Man City in his heyday I think. Or was it Tottenham? All so long ago.

  22. I’m with BIS here….wormy deposition trumps those imaginary worm-holes. I thinki that Darwin might have agreed too – in one of his last publications, he talked bout a field that had been stony 30 years before that had been carpeted with soil by the actions of worms. Whether this works worldwide is another question. But, on the other hand, what do all those countless millions of beetles do for a living?

  23. I’m pretty sure all European cattle are grass fed, if you include silage. I can’t think what else they’d be eating, the cattle cake you feed ’em is mostly supplements and proteins IIRC, the cattle still need to get the several kgs per day inside them to grow. It would be an expensive prospect raising cattle in the absence of grass, unless you had a substitute like corn at hand.

  24. Diogenes
    ‘But, on the other hand, what do all those countless millions of beetles do for a living?’
    EU and Environmental press officers?

  25. bloke in spain – “The evidence is in the words “archeological dig”. The dig part. like if you want to have a look at a Roman building (like the one I can see from my window) you have to dig down through 6 foot of accumulated soil. Whereas, if you take a stroll down to your nearest bit of ancestral woodland with a spade, you’ll hit clay or gravel after a few inches. Forest doesn’t produce soil.”

    But virtually all the soils in Europe are the product of those forests. We cannot be entirely sure what Britain looked like before people turned up, but it had a lot more forest. So you are talking about soils that are the product of 100,000 years of forest, a few hundred of farm land and two thousand years of being covered in rock.

    How can you be sure which has the biggest impact?

    Most of the world’s grain is now grown on former grasslands in places like America, Canada, Australia and even Argentina. The soil is often as thin as thin can be. As the Dust Bowl showed. Or the disaster that was Khrushchev’s Virgin Lands campaign. I have stood in fields and the brown soil was less than an inch deep. Whereas I have stood on building sites of what used to be mangrove swamp and the soil went down over 40 feet.

    I am not sure any generalisation about soil is helpful.

    Besides, there are no worms in forests? Trees do not shed leaves that decompose? I suspect that in Europe the best soil is farmed regardless of how it originated and the worst soil is left to pasture or to forest.

  26. ” So you are talking about soils that are the product of 100,000 years of forest”
    Certainly the Americas prarielands & Canada’s corn belt, Russia’s grain growing areas, are far from 100,000 years old. Much was under a mile of ice up until about 10,000BC.
    Grassland isn’t a particularly stable vegetative environment. It forests unless animals graze it & prevent the saplings becoming established. Grasses have the particular adaptation, they grow from the root rather than the tip so they survive grazing where other plants don’t..

  27. @tim Newman, the alternatives to grass and silage feeding are many and varied, mostly compounded co products from the agriculture, cereal and food processing industries – and yes, also from the ethanol producers who are supposedly snatching the food from the mouths of our livestock. Google KW Trident for an example of one of many suppliers of “straights” and compound feeds.

  28. Actually Gus, I might have to retract that. I went on the website of KW and looked at the products, and most of it – if not all of it, I can’t quite tell – appears to be what I’d generically call cattle cake, i.e. supplements. I’m not sure you could feed cattle exclusively on this stuff, and even assuming you could, the storage requirements would make doing so impractical, never mind uneconomical. Just looking at the recommended quantities per day suggests these are supplements to forage, and the legal disclaimer at the bottom states the diet must contain “sufficient forage”.

    I’m not a farmer but I grew up on a farm, and we used to feed the cattle this sort of stuff…usually tipped into a trough once a day or something. I’ve never heard of European cattle being fed exclusively on cattle cake, but it might happen elsewhere, I dunno. Happy to be proven wrong, though.

  29. Hi Tim, rereading my comment I see it could have been worded better, what I meant was there are alternatives to grazed grass and grass silage, yes forage is required but there are other sources apart from grass that can be grazed or blended with the compound feeds as a TMR (total meal ration) Storage isn’t a problem as the forage can be clamped or baled
    and the co products are produced year round and can be delivered daily.

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