A new voice for Livestock

Redwood Comment
Published:  05 June, 2019
Dr Mike Redwood

I am very much looking forward to hearing Frank Mitloehner speak at the 4th World Leather Congress in New York this July. He was one of the first to challenge the FAO Livestock’s Long Shadow Report, which still haunts the livestock and leather industry despite being written back in 2006 and full of very obvious errors. 

Erroneously, I now believe, I was at that time nervous of his responses, as I thought he was funded entirely by feedlot meat packers, and therefore had an agenda that was not fully disclosed. 

I turned instead to the UK Soil Association report in response to the FAO and two experts who happen to live close by to my home in the south west of England; Graham Harvey and Simon Fairlie. Anyone who is addicted to the long running BBC radio programme, The Archers, might know Graham Harvey, as for over 20 years he was their agricultural adviser. One of his books, The Carbon Fields, takes you through the astonishing facts of the importance of having good soil, the value of long-term grassland, the sequestration of carbon dioxide and the dangers of deep ploughing. Simon Fairlie’s book, Meat A Benign Extravagance, quietly and systematically challenges the bad science that had been put together in 2006.

‘Methane is a sideshow’
In a recent article, Fairlie commented “soil carbon sequestration is not on its own sufficient to defend ruminants against the charge of climate villain. What is also required is a robust critique of the GWP methodology and its CO2 equivalent; and clear explanation to policy makers why ‘methane is a sideshow’”.

Curiously, this comment has been effectively duplicated and loudly reinforced by Frank Mitloehner, who is actually Professor and Air Quality Extension Specialist, Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis. Professor Mitloehner has refreshingly become very active on social media in the last year and is doing so in two ways. Firstly, he has highlighted the fact that the Guardian Newspaper has been providing a platform for anti-meat eating and anti-livestock writing in the name of climate change, without proper regard for analysis of the science. Secondly, and more importantly, he is providing superb links to the many good sources of scientific data the legislators, the meat industry, the leather industry, the influencers and all interested parties need to know. Quite a few are articles he himself has written or given in talks.

Seeing the livestock industry unfairly attacked is distressing for tanners. Like leather, the meat and dairy industry have assumed full public support, so have been slow to push back. Frank Mitloehner is therefore hugely important in providing access to material that needs to be read and quoted to get proper balance back into the food debate and the discussion on livestock. You can find him on Twitter @GHGGuru.

“Chopping down trees is bad. Restoring pasture and soil carbon is good.”
The sort of studies that his work points to include one done in 2016 by Scottish Scientists working with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation. It demonstrated that increasing beef production in Brazil could actually lower its national emissions by maximising the carbon stored by pasture. Brazilian grasses are better at sequestering carbon dioxide than most other grasses, such as those found in Europe, but are in poor shape through neglect. With 99% of Brazilian cattle grass fed, appropriate grazing is needed to improve the soil and grass in the Cerrado region that runs through the centre of Brazil.

The work appears to have led the Brazilian government to the restoration of 15 million hectares of degraded pasture by 2030, and enhance five million hectares where land use is rotated between crops, livestock and forests – also by 2030. This was put into their climate change plans submitted to the UN: hopefully the change of government with not over-rule it.

Dr Mike Redwood
June 5, 2019

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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