A report published in 2006 by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Livestock’s Long Shadow, noted that livestock farming produces great quantities of greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide, accounting for up to 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
The November-December 2009 issue of World Watch magazine went even further by factoring in data for both direct and indirect emissions generated by livestock farming — pushing the figure up to 51 percent.
However, much of the data behind these figures come from cross-sector sources and because the contribution made by each individual sector has not yet been accurately calculated, further revisions are likely. For this reason, University of California researcher Frank Mitloehner said that blaming climate change on cows and pigs was not scientifically accurate.
Still, if someone were to claim that reducing livestock farming and consumption of meat would have an adverse impact on the climate, that would be even more dubious.
Meat production worldwide has grown by about 5 percent per year for the past 30 years. Most of this increase has taken place in developing countries, where production has roughly quadrupled.
Although consumption of meat per person in industrialized countries is three to four times that of people in developing nations, more than half of the world’s meat is now produced and consumed in the latter.
Most notably, China’s consumption of meat has more than doubled in the past 20 years.
If production continues to grow at this rate, there will be a major increase in industrialized livestock factories and more land will be used to grow maize and grass for animal feed. Much of this land will be in areas that originally had few human inhabitants, but plenty of trees.
Virgin forests and grassland that store carbon will be developed, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and disrupting the Earth’s carbon cycle between animals and plants.
Eating less meat, riding bicycles and cutting consumption are effective ways of slowing the rapid pace of global warming, but Taiwanese like eating meat, as evidenced by their average per capita consumption of 77kg a year.
This is in the same range as countries in European and the Americas and much higher than consumption levels in developed countries such as Japan and South Korea. Taiwanese also eat fewer grains and vegetables than people in those countries.
The demand for animal protein is not likely to disappear overnight, but we could adjust the amount and variety of our diet, reducing the total consumption of meat and red meat especially.
Global warming is likely to increase the incidence and spread of diseases carried by arthropods (insects and ticks). Floods generated by abnormal weather may scour pastures and cause contamination by effluents, breaking down established management systems, introducing new infectious diseases and reviving older ones.
In recent years, there has been one outbreak after another of what used to be rare contagious diseases that can cross between humans and livestock. The prevalence and spread of such illnesses between different territories may be related to climate-induced factors. Some areas in Taiwan experienced the spread and reappearance of epidemic diseases following floods brought on by Typhoon Morakot last August. There is clearly an urgent need for people from different sectors to get together and ask whether existing pastures are suitable for raising livestock and how to prevent the spread of disease.
Taiwanese farmers should be encouraged to use supplementary nutritious feed and new kinds of mixed fodder that promote the digestion of protein, cut methane emissions and slow the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane generated by the treatment of animal sewage should also be collected more effectively and put to good use. Energy derived from methane can be used to provide power. Although burning methane produces carbon dioxide, the latter’s potential for climate warming is between one-fiftieth and one-twentyfifth that of methane, so it is much more environmentally friendly.
The problem is that most farmers do not know much about this technology. The government has made efforts to popularize it in the past, but with limited results. The best way would be a centralized processing mechanism that employs specialists to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make better use of energy resources.
For the sake of food security and environmental protection in Taiwan, those working in the livestock industry should consider moving away from intensive mass production and concentrate instead on improving quality, while reducing the density of farm animal populations.
This would reduce the spread of infectious diseases that lead to the death of many animals and considerable losses for farmers.
Above all, producers should establish their own brands, with animals reared in better environments and fed better food, without excessive use of medicines. This would give people greater confidence in food grown in Taiwan.
In such a scenario, even though overall demand for meat would fall, consumers would have the option of buying Taiwan-made meat products that they know to be safe. As a result, Taiwan would also be better placed to resist pressure from powerful meat-exporting countries to import meat produced through factory farming that may be tainted with diseases such as mad cow disease.
If we can instead rely on a steady supply of domestically produced animal products, the future for Taiwan’s farmers and livestock producers would be bright indeed.
Chou Chin-Cheng is a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at National Taiwan University.
TRANSLATED BY JULIAN CLEGG
With its passing of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to tighten its noose on Hong Kong. Gone is the broken 1997 promise that Hong Kong would have free, democratic elections by 2017. Gone also is any semblance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. All the CCP had to do was hold the fort until 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework would end and Hong Kong would rejoin the “motherland.” It would be a “demonstration-free” event. Instead, with the seemingly benevolent velvet glove off, the CCP has revealed its true iron
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at a ceremony on July 30 officially commissioned China’s BeiDou-3 satellite navigation system. The constellation of satellites, which is now fully operational, was completed six months ahead of schedule. Its deployment means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is now in possession of an autonomous, global satellite navigation system to rival the US’ GPS, Russia’s Glonass and the EU’s Galileo. Although Chinese officials have repeatedly sought to reassure the world that BeiDou-3 is primarily a civilian and commercial platform, US and European military experts beg to differ. Teresa Hitchens, a senior research associate at the University of
Taiwan’s rampant thesis and dissertation plagiarism has reduced the value of degrees, bringing the academic system’s public credibility to the brink of collapse. Data published on Retraction Watch — a blog that reports on retractions of scientific papers — showed that 73 papers written by Taiwanese researchers were retracted from international journals between 2012 and 2016 due to fake peer reviews, the second-highest in the world behind China. Based on the size of the academic population, Taiwan was the highest in the world, making it academically a pirate nation. Academic fraud in Taiwan can be divided into several types: the listing of coauthors;