Livestock a major threat to environment

UN report says remedies urgently needed

Rome – Which causes more greenhouse gas emissions, rearing cattle or driving cars?


According to a new report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.

CowSays Henning Steinfeld, Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch and senior author of the report: “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”

With increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products every year. Global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/2001 to 465 million tonnes in 2050, while milk output is set to climb from 580 to 1043 million tonnes.

Long shadow

The global livestock sector is growing faster than any other agricultural sub-sector. It provides livelihoods to about 1.3 billion people and contributes about 40 percent to global agricultural output. For many poor farmers in developing countries livestock are also a source of renewable energy for draft and an essential source of organic fertilizer for their crops.

But such rapid growth exacts a steep environmental price, according to the FAO report, Livestock’s Long Shadow -Environmental Issues and Options. “The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level,” it warns.

When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.

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3 responses to “Livestock a major threat to environment

  1. Oh yeah, ever been to a bean supper? For that matter have you ever worked in close proximity to absolute vegetarians?

  2. the problem is the vast amount of ‘flatus’ specific to ungulates necessary utilization of enteric fermentation during the digestive process. other animals which do no utilize the process do not put off as much ‘flatus’. read it –

  3. But they are able to make gas from cow poo. I wonder why they don’t focus on that instead of following cows around measuring flatus. I guess they hate cows, but there are lot’s of animals besides cows, are we going to give up milk, meat, eggs? What about zoos?
    Whats next? Following old people around with a flatus scale?
    Sadly there is so much serious research that could be useful.