In the land of Kerrygold they’re about to kill 200,000 butter makers

After a leak let it be known that the Irish government was recommending that 65,000 cows a year be killed, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine backpedaled with: “The paper referred to was part of a deliberative process – it is one of a number of modelling documents considered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and is not a final policy decision. “As part of the normal work of government departments, various options for policy implementation are regularly considered.

Good to know. Especially as the data they are using for their ‘models’ is very likely incorrect. (Why do environmentalists love models rather than hard data – a question for another day perhaps?)

The UN’s most significant report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, (below) claimed livestock are responsible for 18% of GHG emissions, but the figure calculated emissions along the entire supply chain, from land use to processing and refrigeration in supermarkets.

But perhaps more significant, however, is the lack of understanding about the methane famously emitted in cows’ burps, and how it acts in the environment.

While methane is 28-times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide, methane’s lifespan is just a decade, while CO2 — known as a long-life pollutant — remains in the atmosphere for 1000 years.

After ten years, methane is broken down in a process called hydroxyl oxidation into CO2, entering a carbon cycle which sees the gas absorbed by plants, converted into cellulose, and eaten by livestock.

To put that into context, each year 558m tons of methane is produced globally, with 188m tons coming from agriculture. Almost that entire quantity — 548m tons — is broken down through oxidation and absorbed by plants and soils as part of the sink effect.

That means that provided no new animals are added to the system, then the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by livestock is actually used by plants during photosynthesis.