Keeping Goldfish to save the planet?

When the EU social partners COTANCE and the European trade union, IndustriALL meeting took place in Glasgow last December to discuss the future of the European Leather industry Federico Brugnoli, Consultant from Spin 360, made the point that the amounts of money put into lobbying in various industries is very large, and that even in the leather supply chain the tanners are battling alongside very well funded organisations promoting meat and dairy interests.

After the Paris Cop21 meeting one can see the power of lobbying. We heard announcements that major coal interests were paying US academics to write papers and newspaper articles arguing that CO2 is not a bad thing without acknowledging publicly the source of their funding. We had long been hearing that the oil industry and some its main users were deflecting public concern about man-made global warming from fossil fuels towards atmospheric emissions from livestock and this seems to support it.

Around Cop21 the attacks on livestock farming and meat eating came loud and strong and they have since continued to. The milk and meat industry trying to push more of the carbon footprint of livestock onto leather is bad enough, but pushing the general public into the belief that anything to do with keeping livestock threatens the entire planet is quite another.

As it happens I do not accept the arguments about methane and livestock and do believe that livestock, properly managed along with a certain amount of meat are both good for the planet and for society. Global warming created by humanity came about only after we started pulling carbon based fuels out of the earth and burning them.

It now seems to be accepted that methane expanded in the atmosphere as herd size grew rapidly between the 1970s and the 1990s that link is now broken. and it levelled out in 1999.

But if you take the approach of some of the aggressively anti meat lobbies, such as one who targeted my Twitter stream in December, then you soon discover that these absolutist approaches hold little logic. To feed the planet crops will have to be grown and the ploughing and the fertiliser needed create CO2. The land not suited for crops, but from which livestock has been removed get colonised by other ruminants instead. We have seen this with deer in Scotland and zebra in Tanzania. So it is not a matter of stop eating meat and we lose the carbon footprint, we just get another one, arguably worse.

And if you believe all this what about pets? Brenda and Robert Vale argue that a medium sized dog is as bad for the environment as a large SUV. Well, my neighbourhood vegan, aggressive on social media about methane and CO2, has two medium sized dogs. According to a recent New Scientist it is all down to the land needed to grow their food. Cats are also bad – and beyond that they kill far more birds than wind turbines.

The greenest pets are chicken or guinea pigs, as long as you eat them. But according to the New Scientist if you do not like eating your pets then your best bet is to keep goldfish.

Mike Redwood
6th January 2016