Letters, from the Independent (UK)
Ill-informed celebs blame my cattle for climate change
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
After checking my organic sheep and cattle this morning, listening to curlews and skylarks wheeling over their nests in the pastures my livestock maintain and watching the bumblebees working over the hay meadows which provide their winter fodder, I opened my Independent and choked on my porridge ("McCartney urges 'meat-free days' to tackle climate change, 15 June)
Here were a bunch of ill-informed, gas-guzzling, jet-setting "celebrities", who probably fly more often to New York or LA than I drive my low-emissions car to the local market town, attacking what I do. What prize patsies they make for the coal, power and aviation industries in passing the blame for global warming from fossil fuels to the eating of beef and lamb. We should be more discerning about the quality and sourcing of all our food. It is fundamentally dishonest to take the world's most shocking examples of deforestation, factory farming and water and energy inputs, then to imply that all meat is produced by means of a hypothetical mix of all of these unacceptable methods.
In reality over half of the UK's farmland is unsuitable for cropping, so centuries of pastoral farming are to a huge degree responsible for our finest landscapes and for locking up millions of tons of carbon in our grassland.
It is the rapid acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels which poses a threat to the planet. In contrast, emissions from our cattle and sheep have been falling as their numbers have dwindled in recent decades.
I am serious about climate change, but because I am not a "celeb" I can only act locally by, for example, heating my home entirely with fallen wood I have cut myself, using a 100 per cent renewable electricity supplier and taking, at most, one (short-haul) flight per year. Whether through ignorance or cynicism, those promoting "Meat-free Monday" are abusing their high profiles while ignoring their own massive carbon footprints. They are reducing this critical issue to a dishonest farce.