Green groups have put a dampener on Meat and Livestock Australia’s campaign to raise public conciousness about the role of agriculture in the carbon cycle, arguing the dangers of methane from livestock far outweigh their benefits.
Healthy Country campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation Corey Watts agreed the “go veg and save the planet” message was very powerful and potentially very dangerous for an industry that did not always deserve such bad publicity.
“There are plenty of good land stewards out there but sadly plenty of bad ones as well,” Mr Watts said.
“Yes, farming is a crucial part of the carbon cycle but the methane emissions from agriculture are much more potent than carbon dioxide and on a global scale this easily outweighs the positives of pasture.”
Mr Watts added an independent, honest appraisal was required to measure the Australian industry’s carbon footprint in a farming perspective, but warned MLA to base the value of its campaign on real environmental merit.
“Agriculture has not been given enough prominence in this debate so far and industry leaders have been very slow to come to the debate and admit there is a big problem,” he said.
MLA chairman Don Heatley does not deny that sheep and cattle emit carbon, but he said targeting ruminants was unfair as it did not see the animals in the context of an overall farm, the trees, perennial pastures, the fenced off creeks and the improved genetics.
“Farmers are environmentalists in the truest sense of the word and through programs like Landcare have delivered huge environmental improvements that they generally don’t get acknowledgement for,” Mr Heatley said.
Not helping MLA’s cause is the lack of scientific knowledge surrounding carbon sequestration in farming systems.
“Sadly all some celebrities, scientists, academics and journalists see is the carbon emissions from livestock and it has become a snowball,” Mr Heatley said.
“We need to really provide them with the right information and open their eyes to all of the other positive environmental work being carried out on farms.”
Farmer case studies will form a key plank in the MLA program to help battle the greenwash against farmers.