Dr Robert Sykes OBE. Defining the Leather Industry of the 20th century

 

Dr Sykes (2nd left) 1978
Dr Sykes relaxing during a long 1978 trip to Latin America for an ICT Meeting and tannery visits. L to R: the late Nigel Palmer from Pittards, Dr Sykes, Paul Ronan from Ireland and the late Jim Jackman of Booth International

In 1994 Robert Sykes called me and asked if I would be willing to talk to the International Council of Tanners about “Branding Leather” at their annual meeting in Hong Kong. There was no Powerpoint in those days, just an overhead projector with acetates. I only had four with short headings and no text, as I do not like mixing text and talk. The presentation went down very well with the audience. Dr Sykes was ahead of his time and few tanners had thought seriously about branding, which had really only become a “thing” in the late 1989s, but it was probably that event that set the industry on the road to establish Leather Naturally, a body which carries many of the hopes for leather making today.

By 1994 Dr Sykes was late in his career, having retired from his long role as Director of the BLMRA/BLC and staying involved in the industry through the role of Secretary to the ICT. It is hard to think back to the fact that I had first met him when newly into the industry I attended my first IULTCS conference in 1991 in Prague. He and his wife Joan took me in hand and ensured I had useful trip, introducing me to all the key people and ensuring I was never left out.

In 1971 he had just been Director of the BLC, then called the British Leather Manufacturers Research Association (BLMRA), for four years. He had studied in the Leather Department at Leeds University ( with teachers such as McCandlish and Atkin, who had worked with Procter) graduating in 1950 and gaining his PhD there in 1952. He joined the UK Colonial Service and went to East Africa and later joined the Leather Industries Research Industries (LIRI) in South Africa. In 1960 he returned to the UK and took a job in the Applied Science Section of the Leathersellers College in London. Not long after he joined the BLMRA and was appointed Director in 1967.

During his long period in charge he became a dominant presence in the world leather industry during a time of huge transition. The BLMRA was largely funded by a payroll based levy on the UK tanneries so he was always close to the commercial issues facing the industry. I travelled with the British group to an ICT meeting in Buenos Aires some years later where he and Guy Reaks were the only two non industrialist amongst a big group of tanners.

This meant that as you read his many published papers, and activities such as moving the BLMRA to Northampton and overseeing the combination with the Leather Industry Association to create the BLC, his approach was a mix of science and commercial. The research showed the mix of long term and close to market, with an emphasis on the latter because of the heavy industry expectations. He also spoke at length about “defensive” research given that even in a talk in 1972 to the RSA in Bradford he was noting the loss of share of leather in footwear and the need to find new markets.

He was certainly visionary and in that regard one of his most recent acts was to make a very generous donation to the National Leather Collection (formerly the Museum of Leathercraft) in Northampton. I am sure that in the coming weeks and months many finer words will be written about him, but I want to put on record my acknowledgment of the help he gave me throughout my career, be it useful assistance at the start or that ability to engage in considered, thoughtful discussion as the nature, the science and the structure of the leather industry quickly evolved around us.

Mike Redwood
October 2018

Getting you story right

Today I was delighted to be observing the Clerk of the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers being awarded a Fellowship of the University of Northampton at their July Degree ceremonies, to the obvious delight of their Chancellor, The Rev. Richard Coles who grew up locally in a leather footwear family. The Reverend Coles gives every impression of being an excellent appointment as Chancellor, with his sensitivity and understanding of University life and how it fits into the regional environment.

The Chancellor is good at telling stories; it is a key element of his day job as Vicar of St Mary the Virgin in nearby Finedon. He understands that industries and companies need such stories. Since we are no longer satisfied with simple language such histories are now termed “backstories”.

As it happened I attended an excellent meeting with representatives of the UK textile industry just a short time ago and was told that everyone was busy dusting down, or recreating, their backstories. Think of the backstory in terms of the book or film industry:  “the things that have happened to someone before you first see or read about that person in a film or story.” I’ve always thought of it as the background research I have always done about a business before going for an job interview or any important meeting. Before the Internet I used to pride myself on my accumulation of reference books and trade journals to enable this research.

Around the world companies are anxiously searching their archives, hoping that notes about their history still remain in adequate detail to create the backstory and allow them to talk about how the business began, how it evolved and more.  This gives the authenticity, the validity, to a business that consumers are thinking of engaging with. This is why Seth Godin said “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.”

Tanneries now regret ditching their historic baggage

For much of my life the leather industry has been busy trashing its history. I own an early 20th century water colour picture of the Richardson Tannery of Newcastle I had to retrieve from a skip. Five hundred years of history about that tannery were binned or bulldozed more or less overnight. Around the country it is the same story, and I am not sure I see much more attention to archives, artefacts and history elsewhere in the world.

Even the tanneries that have survived have cleaned up, modernised, and mostly ditched their “historic baggage”.

So the search for histories with limited or no available in house archive has to look elsewhere. Fortunately In the leather industry we have one great source for older tanneries – the National Leather Collection.

In its new venue near the Market Square the NLC has been able to open out, display and fully catalogue its entire collection of books and pamphlets. Unlike most collections of the sort this one is heavily weighted with company histories – a fashion of the early and mid 20th century – and company pamphlets. These are mostly for the UK, but not entirely as at various times agents, distributors and sister companies have donated items. For a few companies there are swatch books, posters and other items.

With the move of the University to its new Waterside Campus, within walking distance of the Museum the University Library will be more digital and not able to accommodate all its books. Consequently only current text books will be retained and all extra and older ones, along with all the old Journals are going to be held at the NLC. The Journals go back to the mid 1800s and include American and UK trade (and a few from elsewhere) magazines with a lot of company detail and adverts. They also include the technical journals like the JSLTC, JALCA and Das Leder.  Unexpected items like the Corium yearbook – sadly long since discontinued – talk about the events and individuals who attended Leathersellers when it was in London, before the 1970s move to Northampton.

The leather industry as a whole has a poor record of supporting those conserving its history, be this documentation or artefacts. Bigger tannery groups around the world used to keep excellent libraries and more in the past. Think of Barrow Hepburn/Hodgsons in England, Colomer in Spain and Friitala in Finland who all held outstanding libraries. I have not tracked these but I suspect they have now been lost.

Where we do still have archives and artefacts remaining, as with the National Leather Collection in Northampton (formerly the Museum of Leathercraft), we do need to pull together to give it maximum support. (Elsewhere in Europe we have a Museum in Offenbach (Germany) and another in Igualada (Spain) although these do not hold print archives to the same extent as Northampton does.)

The NLC (https://nationalleathercollection.org/about-us/) needs our strongest support, individually and as companies to keep our stories alive.  You can sign up to give a small amount monthly (as I do) or give via you company or other ways. If you live locally you can also volunteer and bring your interest and knowledge to help secure the collection for the future. It may also be that you, like me, have your own collection of books and items you have built up over the years and perhaps now is the time to decide where they should go for the long term. There is no better, or safer, destination than the NLC. A few times I have heard of such gifts being given to a local museum only to discover that just a few years later the items have been lost and there is no memory of the gift ever having been made. I have for some years been trying to give my E and J. Richardson water colour to a Newcastle Museum or Gallery as it is an important part of the industrial history of the City and the River Tyne, but nowhere can I find real interest; or feel confident that it is wanted, will be kept, looked after or displayed. My decision to give this and all my books to the NLC has now been made.

And the NLC’s print and other archives hold precisely the material that allows companies, and the different segments and regions of the industry to build the backstories they now require.if you can ever get to Northampton, this is a must visit location.

Mike Redwood
July 2018

About Us

SLTC on a successful track

The Society of Leather (SLTC) held its 121st Annual Conference at the University of Northampton on Saturday last, the 21st April.  I think I have been back to attend about one third of all them, so I have seem the gradual decline and growth in phases over time.  There is no doubt that the leather industry can get quite moody along with the perceived, or real, state of trade. Sometimes management gets very mean and will not cover expenses and at others it thinks the learning and connections to be gained well worth supporting.

Of course at the same time the quality of the event, in terms of content and attendance, has an impact upon those decisions. This has been apparent in the cycle we have seen in the last decade or so when the conference has recovered so well from a long slow but unremitting decline. During that period the Society moved the event around to get closer to the bigger tanners. In the end it did not work and a retreat to Northampton has ended delighting all parties. Everyone can plan around it with ease and students from the University have access without having to pay expensive hotel accommodation. So numbers, from the UK and overseas, have steadily risen and it looks as though the programme has continued to improve.

This has highlighted the fact that Northampton remains an important centre for leather. When we helped set up the “northamptonshireleather.com”* website ten years ago we quickly found that there were over 110 businesses involved in leather in the region. This includes all making, using, buying, selling, educating, testing, consulting and the like. Some are tiny businesses but quite a number like SATRA at the footwear factories are big employers. Quite quickly the conference and the society regained momentum, to the extent that the AGM after the conference was well attended and had a busy agenda to manage.

History has meant that the UK leather society has from the early days had places like Australia and South Africa within its grouping whereas the general move has been from national associations to join the International Union (IULTCS) directly. It was sad to learn that Australia has now left the UK.

Spreading the scientific discussion

Yet one wonders whether this is not the moment for the SLTC to look outwards and find ways to support and sponsor technical meetings in emerging markets where the leather industry is now starting to grow.  On Saturday at least a third of the day was spent looking at minimal standards being presented as a new baseline, for those not connected to the Leather Working Group (LWG) or the Tannery of the Future Tool, to help such plants identify where they must start on introducing appropriate Corporate Social Responsibility. There was concern that some of the standards being presented were far below the accepted levels to which many delegates are already working, and feel have by default now become the minimum the industry should work to.

Would it not be great if such a debate were actually also being held in some of the emerging areas where the issues are arising? What sort of technical debate is  going on in Bangladesh where it appears tanners expect the government to do everything, or in Sialkot (Pakistan) where Ivan Král of UNIDO explained that the new tannery zone and effluent plant are being privately funded by the tanners themselves?  Or throughout Africa, where the leather industry is in an expansion mode?

Given that the UK has strong historic links (and current links through the University and certain companies) with Africa and many of these other emerging countries would it not be interesting as part of the social responsibility of the SLTC to look at some of these areas not with the old “funding” model of collecting subscriptions, but rather to find a way to make the technical debate more uniform globally? One often goes to international events and listens to well intentioned papers that ignore research done ten or fifteen years prior and that is well past the proof of concept stage. Listening to these being presented as new miracle discoveries feels very wrong.

Part of the problem is that the SLTC has not penetrated deeply and widely enough. The IULTCS is good but does not have a journal, so the technical journals for the industry reside in the UK and US right now, supported by the fact that the UK has the top trade magazines all of which contain a lot of important technical data.  When we went with the Master of Leathersellers to Sichuan University in Chengdu a few years ago, Leathersellers paid to have 50 years of the JSLTC bound for their library (the late Philip Rothwell donated his journals for this). This top Chinese University used to have them, but they were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution and not replaced nor kept up to date since.

One wonders how many budding technicians around the world today have access to the Journals on an everyday basis? Should they not be the foundation – online and offline – of every country’s and every sizeable tannery’s technical and research facility. If not, what is the SLTC really for, and what is the value of our Professional Grades awards?

Mike Redwood
22nd April 2018

* northamptonshireleather.com It would appear that after a couple of years the web site was hijacked into supporting a footwear conference run by a mix of the local community and the University fashion school. As far as I now the conference never happened and the web site was eventually closed.  Certainly the web site is not available today and that great work compiling all the company details appears to have been lost.

Waste is a design error

Two 40 foot containers are put together to form one module of the new plant
Two 40 foot containers are put together to form one module of the new plant

I first met Dietrich Tegtmeyer of Lanxess right at the beginning of this century – when Lanxess was still part of Bayer. I was working for ECCO based in Dongen in the Netherlands. We had just moved from our “Portakabins” into the vary vacant feeling new research centre and Hub for the leather side of ECCO. The concept of creating new leathers in one “HQ” and sending them out to other plants to make was not new; but it had never really worked elsewhere and management theory of the time ran strongly against the concept. Indeed one or two customers were unwilling to commit to ordering leather sampled from one location to be made in bulk elsewhere.

With Dr Tegtmeyer at that time we were talking about shipping used chromium back to Leverkusen for it be regenerated and returned for use as part of regular chrome offer. They had all the facilities and this at a stroke removed one problem from the waste stream.

When I left the company we had not yet got it working but fifteen years on two things are quite clear. If plant and equipment are properly established, if staff are well trained and managed it is clearly quite possible to successfully design and make leathers and move them from plant to plant around the world. Perhaps you might call it a core competence at ECCO, where the dynamic Hub is now a successful hive of very busy creative people.

Nor has Dr Tegtmeyer and Lanxess rested. The concept of looking at those materials often discarded by the tanner and finding useful ways of working with them has continued as a priority. Some of these ideas were presented in their third seminar for Brands and manufacturers over the last two days at their Cologne Headquarters.

They have now developed with the Leverkusen-based research institute INVITE a modular plant that can use shavings and organic biomass to create what they are calling “X-Biomer” retanning agents for manufacturing leather. The manufacturing equipment is designed for use directly on-site at the tanneries. The feasibility tests are currently taking place with the third project partner, the Heller-Leder tannery based in Hehlen, Lower Saxony.

This is truly a creative idea. What has been a difficult to handle solid waste – contentiously defined in many countries as a chemical waste – becomes a raw material for the further processing of leather. Lanxess estimates that a medium-sized tannery produces between one and two metric tons of shavings a day, so by using this production plant, the tannery could manufacture a comparable volume of liquid X-Biomer directly on site. Every trace of the waste is then recycled, leaving no residue, and without generating any emissions.

At this stage I have no knowledge of the properties it offers but I do know that top Japanese non-woven producers have been looking to put protein into their materials to enhance the moisture management properties, and hence the comfort, and improve the feel. So  having a protein based retanning agent makes sense, and could be very interesting.

By doing it on site at the tannery a big cost in transportation and logistics is eliminated, while the business model for Lanxess is comprehensively changed. And as a result the tannery evolves towards thinking of itself as a protein factory. I applaud that as since the hide and skin proteins are edible one does like it when the untanned material that is not going to make leather – the fleshings, lime and limed split trimmings end up in gelatine or in sausage skins back in the food chain.

Mike Redwood
January 2018

Making the most of the Hong Kong Leather Show

University of Northampton Students at the APLF Leather Show in Hong Kong
University of Northampton Students at the APLF Leather Show in Hong Kong

In recent years we have become used to meeting students on the University stand at the APLF leather show in Hong Kong. While the European shows in Milan and Paris are important in global terms Hong Kong still remains pre-eminent and is great venue to meet the international leather industry in ways not possible in the European cities,

The students attend as Ambassadors and get a chance to attend the Corium Club cocktail party and the UKLF/Leathersellers party at the Hong Kong Club where they can meet alumni and other industry executives informally.  There have been instances where some of these meetings have led to job offers, further evidence of a shortage of good technical staff entering the industry and the steadily rising reputation of Northampton graduates.

Some of the students get assistance with travel from Leathersellers grants and steadily this presence has become a routine that everyone benefits from.  Seeing the leather industry via a trade fair, meeting executives and alumni and seeing and Asian city all add up to a superb experience for students entering the industry..

Hopefully this involvement will continue for many years.

Mike Redwood
20th April 2017

Amanda Michel 1960-2017

Amanda Michel
Amanda Michel

We tend to ask leather technicians whether they work in the wet end or in finishing and do not think of other roles.  But as Christine Powley Williams made clear when she spoke movingly at Amanda Michel’s funeral, Amanda was rare, if not unique, in her outstanding skills in microscopy and problem solving.

An industry that is short of skilled staff, and behind in its utilization of talented women, cannot afford to lose people like Amanda at such a young age.  Having been so open with everyone about her cancer, which we knew was going to be a tough battle, her positive spirit and indomitable approach initially appeared to be winning. So it was with exceptional sadness that we gathered in a place she had helped get built and behind a large window known simply as “Amanda’s Window” to say goodbye to someone who had already achieved more than most but yet we know was just coming into her prime.

Amanda left school with an interest in science and got a job at the BLMRA – the industry owned pre-cursor of the current BLC – where she was to work for 27 years. While there she obtained a chemistry degree through part time study and gained experience in a very wide range of leather making activities and associated problem solving. Most significantly she trained in microscopy under Betty Haines, whose book “Leather under the Microscope” remains the gold standard.

She left the BLC after 27 years to set up Leatherwise with Christine Powley Williams and continued to run it successfully alone after Chris joined SATRA. Leatherwise quietly built a strong reputation in testing and problem solving.

Amanda had been President of the SLTC and had recently been made an Associate Lecturer at the University of Northampton and a Trustee of the Museum of Leathercraft.  This in addition to what was a major contribution to the community of Stanwick through her role with the Parish Council and Environmental group showed her determination to give back to the leather industry and to society.

Given that leather today is very much an engineered product microscopy remains a vital tool in problem solving and in research.  Hopefully her chapter on the subject in the Leather Technologists Pocket Book will now be given renewed prominence and help stir a new generation of leather technologists and skilled technicians. As her husband Ian said “Leather was her work; and leather was her passion.”

Mike Redwood
11th April 2017

The National Leather Collection has Moved Downtown

The National Leather Collection (which used to be called the Museum of Leathercraft), now safely housed on two upper floors of the Grosvenor Shopping Centre in the middle of Northampton, is leading the charge for the total relocation of all things leather in Northampton back to the town from the periphery. It feels appropriate after all these years.

We have just seen the open day to show anyone interested some of the items and how the place might look in the future. One one floor will be a library and study rooms for leather students as some of the University’s leather books will be added to the extensive historic Museum Collection to create a first rate working environment just a few steps across the Market Square from the new location for the ICLT in the Vulcan Works.

Given the  quality of the coffee and cakes on offer at the Open Day – and we are told that the coffee bar is likely to be retained – this could become a distinctive venue. An unusual one also as there will always be a big contingent of industry veterans around more than willing to share their knowledge. So in just a short space of time we saw Michael Pearson, Peter Mommersteeg, Mike Downing, Richard Daniels, Walter Landmann and a host of others.  One imagines that as the collection gets more organised and put on display in different and varied groupings we will see increasingly today’s tanners and designers turning up to understand the evolution of design and leathers, and to search for historic concepts that can be given a contemporary feel.

What is already good is the significant number of volunteers who are already helping. There is a major search on for those interested to be patrons, trustees or join the “Friends”. This latter looks like being a major group. Funding is needed as well. Some £250,000 to fit out the two floors which are currently without carpets or fittings and £200,000 a year for running costs. There is an additional plan to find larger long term funds to look after what is an invaluable collection and ensure everything is properly conserved and stored.

But at the same time after well over two decades of living precariously in poor storage to have this collection accessible and safe is outstanding. Given the extensive space the Museum now has for the first time we can start to have a really good look at it.  Outstanding collections of saddles, of footwear of luggage, of gloves, of drinking vessels, of military accoutrements, of books, of vegetable tanning extracts…. the list is endless.

The plan is also to make, as far as possible with valuable and sometime fragile artefacts, to make all this as accessible as possible to the public. To touch and to feel rather than just stand back and look and admire. Leather is a material that engages us on many levels and the Museum plans to be true to that.

Hopefully by the time the ICLT is making its physical move down ti the Vulcan Works the installations of the Museum will be long complete and we can plan some great get togethers in their excellent coffee shop. But no handling the leathers with fingers sticky from the cakes!

Mike Redwood
February 1, 2017

Brexit “democracy needs experts”

Given that our Corium Club alumni are all scientists to a greater or lesser degree many who read this will also be reading this week’s editorial in the New Scientist. If not it is worth buying the magazine for.

The point it makes is short and simple: “democracy needs experts”. This comes from the fact that a senior UK Cabinet Minister told Sky News during the recent Referendum campaign “I think the people of this country have had enough of experts” as a response to a question about expert warnings on the economy should there be a vote to exit the EU.

As a marketing person I have to say that both campaigns were dreadful. As the NS says ‘the willingness to bend, ignore or invent facts was depressing and shameful. Both sides were up to it, but Leave told the biggest whoppers”.  Yet it is the denigration of experts, a standard ploy in populist campaigns, that must worry us here.

The leather industry suffers badly from the careless use of terminology. We are not just riddled with greenwash, largely of our own making, but all types of language about leather making is just far to loose and undefined.The term “heavy metal” is one. It has never been defined by any authoritative body such as IUPAC. Over the 60 years or so in which it has been used in chemistry, it has been given such a wide range of meanings by different authors that it is effectively meaningless. No relationship can be found between density (specific gravity) and any of the various physicochemical concepts that have been used to define “heavy metals” and the toxicity or ecotoxicity attributed to “heavy metals”. Consequently the Centre of Toxicology tells us to abandon the classification of metals using terms such as “heavy metals”, which have no sound scientific or terminological basis.

So many of the things written about leather, good or bad, fall into that category of careless talk and this carelessness is in part the reason why we have made the fight against calling plastics “synthetic” leather so hard. Arguments about carbon foot prints, the wickedness of cows, the toxicity of chrome, the amounts of waste and so many other areas of leather production are loaded with scientific inaccuracies. No wonder that people can get away with still promoting ridiculous falsehoods such as that tanners use arsenic.

emotion trumps reason”

Another point the NS makes is that facts are not always enough, we also need to inject some belief and emotion, because at the end of the day “emotion trumps reason”.

I know we have some alumni who supported the UK leaving the EU, but I was not amongst them. My student days learning leather were heavily punctuated with student politics and i later supported our Prime Minister Ted Heath when he battled to get the UK into the then EEC. I have always supported the EU as a strategic entity more than just a trade club and I am heartbroken by this outcome. During my career I have lived and worked in Italy, France and the Netherlands and strongly believe my children and grandchildren would benefit from borders open to the movement of capital, goods, services and people.

While I cannot pretend to speak for the University I do feel that we will all have to invigorate our support for the ICLT at this time. Student numbers from the EU countries appeared to have been rising and as the industry makes a modest, but significant return from overseas EU demand is likely to grow further. We must all fight to ensure that Northampton can continue to serve this group, and that all the associated links for travel and research remain in place.

We have all worked closely for many decades and we have alumni spread throughout the EU as well as the rest of the world.  While the vote inevitably has changed the atmosphere the reality is that practically nothing will change for at least two years and with luck new agreements will come into place to go beyond that.

Keeping it all together is something to get emotional about.

Mike Redwood
30th June 2016

Chris Wade

I heard this morning that Chris Wade died on the 16th June. He had a long and distinguished career do will be known by many in the trade.  I met him first in El Salvador when he visited us while working for K Shoes and we spent a few days looking round our shoe factories and the tannery there.

Curiously we were to connect later when I worked with his father Max Wade at Charles Tanneries in Nottingham. Wade and Co in Nottingham was one of the first UK tanneries to use chromium in a serious and correct way.  Around 1955 the family asked the Booth Group to take full control but Max had stayed on and was a font of good advice and knowledge.

Chris’s career consequently included Wade & Company, but also K Shoes, National Chrome Tanning (as it was), Scottish Tanning Industries (as it was) and finally he set up his own business prior to retirement. He will be well known by a lot of our alumni in the UK and overseas.

Chris’s son Colin is well known to many others as the Managing Director of Andrew Muirhead and Sons Ltd. The funeral will be held on Wednesday the 6th July 2016 at 1.15pm at The Counties Crematorium, Towcester Road, Milton Malsor Northampton NN4 9RN and the family would be pleased for those attending to join them afterwards in Greens Restaurant, Collingtree Park Golf Club, 90 Windingbrook Lane, Northampton, NN4 0XN

Mike Redwood
22nd June 2016

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