1.2 Livestock

There are some types of agriculture that contribute disproportionately high greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial livestock farming is one of them. Read the report, Livestock's Long Shadow, from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. It describes how industrialised livestock farming contributes to climate change through:

  • the physical emissions of carbon dioxide and methane from cattle

  • the clearance of forest for production of grain crops for livestock feed

  • the vast processing, refrigeration and transportation networks for meat products

  • the environmental toxicity of animal wastes from industrial livestock farms.

Conversely, extensive livestock rearing has the ability to lock up carbon in the soil of grasslands and is therefore a way to mitigate agricultural-related greenhouse gases.

The Soil Association suggests that the waste from sheep and cattle grazing on grasslands does not cause pollution as it is not concentrated and degrades naturally. Grazing animals are also converting something that humans can't eat (grass) into something we can eat (meat and dairy products). Also, importantly, grazing animals aren't consuming grain (which uses nitrogen fertilizer which in turn produces large amounts of highly damaging nitrous oxide emissions).

Meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals contain more beneficial nutrients and healthier fat than grain-fed animals. Grazing animals also help to preserve some of the most beautiful and highly valued landscapes in Britain – almost all our national parks and many nature reserves are maintained by grazing sheep and cattle. Grazing animals are protecting some of the most significant carbon stores on the planet: permanent grassland and heather moorland. We should view these areas as we do rainforests in terms of their ability to store carbon. If grasslands are no longer grazed and are ploughed up, they will release carbon into the atmosphere.

1 Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture

1.3 Glasshouse fruit and vegetables