back to article Farmers demand 'special' climate deal for flatulent cattle

The International Federation of Agricultural Producers has asked for a "special deal" in climate negotiations, insisting there are "limits to what farmers could do to curb emissions" from the flatulent, burping cattle which contribute a fair whack of the 20 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions attributed to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    oh for fucking fucks sake

    Eating grass and farting it out in the same day does not contribute to global warming. Digging up 50 million year old pete and burning it DOES. The fart turns back into grass in a matter of months and the old pete takes several million years to churn back. Limiting carbon emissions should be wholly restricted to fossil fuels or other long-cycle carbon stores.

  2. Anonymous Coward


    While I accept we probably rear more livestock these days than our less high-tech ancestors did, does this not feature as 'background' in the emissions table? We should be trying to reduce the emissions that have soared since the industrial revolution, and not sticking corks in cows backsides to curb the emissions that were already present!!

  3. Richard

    Well, they've got a point.

    I don't think trying to teach their cows a little table manners is going to help.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Its funny

    But the whole point of the "greenhouse tax" was to curb excesses that are damaging our planet. Funny thing, we always had cows, they always emitted harmful gasses - yet here the earth is, thousands/millions/billions years later (take your pick, depends what you believe in) - and the Ozone is still there.

    Makes you wonder who's taking the p$ss.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no deals!

    Cattle are inefficient sources of nourishment. That they also produce copious quantities of methane is just another reason why they should be more expensive. Cattle farmers wanting to do their part should plant wheat instead of raising cattle. Sheesh.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    RE: oh for fucking fucks sake

    What has Pete done to you? Stop digging him up and let him rest in peace...

  7. Chris
    Thumb Down

    Cattle farmers wanting to do their part should plant wheat instead of raising cattle

    because obviously you can grow wheat everywhere you can grow goats...

  8. Mark


    For two reasons

    1) They are looking to change the gut bacteria so that they produce less methane as their waste product. Less farty cows.

    2) Kangaroos survive much better, taste really very nice and don't fart quite so much. Last I recall, 'roo burgers and 'roos themselves were fairly common in AUS.

  9. Pondule

    Simple solution

    rubber underpants for cattle with a gas bag on their backs to capture the methane.

  10. Tom Paine
    Thumb Up


    Firstly BIG THUMBS UP to El Reg for a climate story that leaves the trolling to the comments, where it belongs... straight reporting FTW!

    Secondly, agricultural emissions of methane from ruminants have in fact increased humoungously over the last century. Tracking down the data is left as an exercise to the reader, but surely anyone familiar with the rough trend of the world human population chart over the last couple of centuries will find this an uncontroversial statement of the bleedin' obvious.

    Thirdly, to the AC who said "Eating grass and farting it out in the same day does not contribute to global warming" -- your mistaken assumption is that the methane the cow emits was already active as an additional climate forcing before the grass converted it to cellulose. However (a) the carbon used to produce that cellulose was atmospheric CO2, whilst the cow emits CH4, a far more potent greenhouse gas.

  11. Red Bren

    @AC 16:50

    Cattle and other livestock are often the only sources of nutrition as not all land is suitable for growing crops. Putting the whole of a humanity on a vegan diet only shifts the methane problem - have you ever been trapped in a lift with a flatulent veggie?

    And sheesh is made from sheep!

  12. Chronos

    You're all missing the point!

    Just think of the comedy value of seeing a herd of Fresians with filters/catalytic converters attached to their arses. We'll be the laughing stock of the world.

    Hint for those who only think in terms of carbon because that's what people will not STFU about: Cows emit methane from their rear ends, predominantly, and they have been doing this for eons without the planet becoming FUBAR. Perhaps we should all stop breathing and farting. It'll be messy, but it's for a good cause isn't it?

    Save the planet, boy! Save! Save!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ dave

    Photosynthesis, to which you tangentially refer, consumes CO2.

    It does not consume the METHANE which is the main constituent of farts.

    Oh, and @ AC, we are rearing millions more cows since the industrial revolution.


  14. Chris Miller
    Thumb Down

    Cattle farmers wanting to do their part should plant wheat instead of raising cattle

    And you propose to fertilise this wheat, how? By manufacturing fertiliser in energy intensive chemical plants, perchance?

  15. IGnatius T Foobar
    Thumb Down

    More greendroid lunacy

    The "climate change" house-of-cards is finally starting to collapse. People are slowly coming to the realization that climate drives carbon levels -- not the other way around. Record low temperatures were recorded in so many places this year. It's getting more difficult to cling to the "consensus" (defined by greendroids as "everyone agrees with this, except those who don't, but they don't count and we'll just smear them") of anthropogenic climate change.

    Look at how pathetic Al Gore has been over the last week or so -- he's so desparately trying to attach his climate change agenda to the recent Obama hype. He's going to be disappointed when he finds out that Obama will only pay lip service to Gore's agenda, being more interested in tax-and-spend economics than in weird environmental lunacy.

    The bottom line is that the greendroids are just about done with their 15 minutes of fame. Good riddance.

  16. Charles Silver badge

    Re: no deals!

    Do that and you'll raise the ire of the gluten-sensitives and wheat-allergics.Corn's out because of the corn syrup controversy, and many other plant-based crops will probably just move the flatulence problem over to the human race instead of the bovine one.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    @dave: Methane into grass

    I don't think the methane expelled by cows goes into making grass. Not even within months. Methane tends to rise - away from grass. Grass tends to use CO2. Cow pats however do land on the grass and do help fertilise the ground.

    What famers should be doing to cut down on the methane levels is to feed their cows alfalfa and clover instead of grass and grain as that has been shown to lower the fart quantity and quality.

    Anyway, cattle farming will probably have to be cut back as they are extremely inefficient forms of protein. The amount of land and water need to produce feed for cattle to produce 1kg of meat is very high, about 3700L/kg. We don't need to change into vegatarians, but if we used less meat in general and included other types of game meat in our diets the world will be slightly better off.

  18. Paul Schofield
    Thumb Down

    re: Cattle farmers wanting to do their part should plant wheat instead of raising cattle

    You show me dead wheat that tastes as good as dead cow and maybe you might have a very small point.......

  19. Anonymous Coward

    re no deals!

    < farming hat>

    To grow good wheat you need the right climate and the right type of soil etc, eg france, they grow lot of wheat, on the same note there are good places to keep cattle and sheep, eg Ireland and the UK.

    </farming hat>

    and also like another poster the cattle and sheep didnt just start producing methane etc over night they have always done it and its part of the natual cycle.

    anyways i'll prefer a good medium to rare steak to anything else well.. some potatoes wouldnt go a miss either with it - thats as close as i get to eating veggies - we have canines for a reason

    mines the battered old one with the cattle prod in one pocket and baler twine in the other

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Plant wheat instead of raising cattle?

    Not even the most retarded hippie would suggest that you could live healthily on just wheat alone. Strike that, they would. But no-one with an ounce of sense would say it.

    Grass-fed Cows are carbon neutral thanks to their eating grass. Grain-fed ones aren't as immediately neutral, but it's still just a couple of years between carbon in the air to carbon back in the air.

    Planting / fertilising / reaping / processing all that wheat takes a whole bucketload of energy. So the difference in CO2eqv emissions probably isn't that different- and then take into account that the gasses from the cows were in the air last week rather than from oil ('lecct, petrol, plastics, etc) and you quickly see that cows are better for the environment.

  21. Chris G Silver badge

    Wheat is more carbon efficient?

    What is the wheat straw used for exactly? Bedding for cows is one use, if not then there are moves afoot to use it as a source of biofuel or to burn in power stations. Whatever, it is going to contribute to carbon emissions.

    The comment sounded like a typical self righteous veggie comment, if the commenter is not a veggie I apologise but either way , think it through!

    While looking at emissions from livestock I think it would be a good idea to examine all the other creatures on the planet and any that are over producing methane should be taxed.

    If, for example you use an annual methane emission to body weight I think it would be probable that animals like Hippos and Elephants may well be significant producers of greenhouse gases, why should they get away with not paying tax?

  22. Luther Blissett

    Growing "essential food"

    No prizes for guessing what's coming next - a nasty little greenie saying we don't need animal farming, as it's not essential, so we can all be veggies now. And the only animal farm that's a good animal farm is the one Orwell wrote (but only if it's on recycled paper).

  23. Paul Schofield

    I remember seeing a billboard

    I think it was Saskatchewan......said something along the lines of......

    We have room for all God's creatures....

    Right next to the potatoes and vegetables.

    Grabbing coat and outta here.......

  24. Mark
    Paris Hilton

    @Paul Schofield

    "You show me dead wheat that tastes as good as dead cow and maybe you might have a very small point......."

    Fresh baked bread.


    Breakfast cereals.

    Three good enough for you?

  25. Mark

    @Chris G

    Though I think all people demanding the removal of livestock are forgetting that the best way to turn scrubland into something humans can eat is to let a goat at it then eat the goat, you are forgetting deliberately something:

    The wheat you burn today will be releasing carbon for the wheat you'll burn next season.

    It is called "the carbon cycle".

    See also "the water cycle". I've never heard anyone say that drinking water from a river will make the rivers dry up, or the seas run dry. So you DO know what a cycle is. Just not when it's GW concerned.

  26. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Know your history

    The idea that we have had cows for a long time and climate change is a recent phenomenon is bogus. Read Plows, Plagues and Petroleum by William F Ruddiman ISBN-10: 0-691-12164-8 We have been changing the climate ever since we started cutting down the forests for our farms. The evidence says the change in prior to the industrial revolution had already prevented a new ice age. The climate even cools during events like the Black Death where large areas of Europe reverted to forest. Besides we never had so many cows, and they didn't used to get fed grain that needed large inputs of oil to grow (yes, I know cows in Oz and sheep in NZ eat grass).

  27. Chronos

    Forgot to mention

    You greenies might like black tea or coffee, but I like mine white with proper, non-faddy whole milk. If I can get it before they pasteurise/homogenise/bake all the nice bits out to put in cream cartons and charge me for the privilege, so much better. And no, I cannot stand Coffee Mate [TM], probably from Nestle because most of their stuff tastes like synthetic crud.

    You lot conveniently forgot about dairy produce when considering the amount of grass/water/CH4 per kilo of cowmeat, didn't you? Well, I won't say anything. Let's hope nobody else notices.

    Oh, and there's a more important greenhouse gas than CO2 or methane. Care to take a guess at it's name? Its molecule is a strange shape, has the odd property of being less dense in its solid form, is better known in its liquid state as being essential to life and is roughly estimated to contribute to 60% of the atmosphere's greenhouse effect in its gaseous form. Ironically, the particulates we used to pump out contributed to this gas condensing and the resultant cover raised the planetary albedo, being the one factor thought to affect GMST more than any other.

    Save the planet, boy! Save! Save! (Yes, this is my mantra so nobody can say I am not taking this green bullsh^H^H^H^H^H^Hdriv^H^H^H^Hissue seriously.)

  28. Andy Worth

    Re:Simple Solution

    "rubber underpants for cattle with a gas bag on their backs to capture the methane"

    Lol funnily enough I was thinking of the exact same thing, but with the unfortunate effect that this essentially turns your cattle into a stock of walking bombs.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    @Luther Blissett ... Agree...

    What we need is a new EU directive that bans the farming of livestock completely by 2015, thus cutting these emissions by 100%.

    Of course, once HMG get hold of the one page directive, they will turn it into a 1000 page "white paper", including life sentences for farmers and meat eaters that are caught and convicted of eating rats, mice and gerbils.

    The logical extension of this policy of course is, that once we are all vegetarians, it will be us wicked citizens who are polluting the atmosphere with our disgusting emissions, and it will require yet more regulation from our lords and masters in Brussels and Westminster in order to cut pollution...

    Regular culls of fat people and other proles...


    BillG devil... His foundation is contributing to birth control in the "third world"... and a good thing too.

  30. Mark
    Paris Hilton

    re: Forgot to mention

    I would, from the posts I make here, be counted as a greenie by you.

    I don't like black coffee.

    Maybe you're prejudices are showing. And if you're knee is busy jerking, what are you?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Choose your information sources wisely

    Whenever the world's specialists, the people who really know, the people who live and work in that area of research, whenever they stand shoulder to shoulder in their thousands and say "we can be over 95% sure that this astonishing thing *really is true*", if I happen to have got into the habit of suggesting a *different* viewpoint, then rather than consider changing that viewpoint I prefer instead to find one comment, one website, one researcher with letters after his name, one journalist with a bee in her bonnet, *any little thing* that I can cling to, that I can pretend backs up my position, disregarding the fact that the World's Collective Specialists must already know all about this area and have incorporated it in their thinking, instead just repeating it and closing my ears, because human brains are hardwired to do anything to avoid facing up to the possibility that an oft-stated position might not actually have been right.

    Well, I used to be like that. Actually, you *can* choose to face that possibility - I did, and it's hugely liberating, and despite the fear hardwired in your brain, it won't invalidate your entire previous existence. The deniers of human-powered Climate Change are no different to those who denied the Earth was round, because hey, it clearly was flat, because it had always been flat, because they couldn't see the evidence or understand the reasoning, and had spent their lives talking about a flat earth.

    Unblinker yourself, and think about it. The people who actually know, in their thousands, are telling you about Climate Change with one voice, and they haven't conveniently missed out stuff (doh!) - if you find someone claiming that there's stuff their model doesn't incorporate, say, then either it does, or they'll have reasons why that issue doesn't actually change their conclusions. Because they're not averting their eyes, and they're not too stupid, in their thousands, to have spotted that particular issue. They're paid to be objective, and the person highlighting their apparent issue is not.

    It would need to be a conspiracy of staggeringly implausible size for there to be stuff out there that they, our most knowledgeable and most objective people, were not taking into account.

    The people who actually know are telling you one thing.

    "IGnatius T Foobar" is telling you otherwise.

    Choose your information sources wisely.

    (And so - sorry, but don't kid yourself that our current cow production isn't hurting the planet, just because, as someone who likes their steak, that's too awful to contemplate. Be objective.)

  32. dave lawless

    You eat, you pay

    What's so troubling about that?

    If your business needs to buy carbon credits then you pass on the cost to your customers. That might price them out of your product. Too bad, that's the whole point isn't it?

    Progress is a bitch.

  33. Amanda Baker

    Help the farmers

    We can do a lot to help the farmers:

    We can teach ourselves about the most climate-friendly foods, and choose to buy them in place of the more climate-damaging foods.

    We can lobby our politicians to give financial support to farmers for training and equipment to move to proven climate-friendly farming techniques.

    Land which is not currently suitable for conventional arable techniques can have many climate-friendly uses which support good new livelihoods for farmers.

    'Agroforestry' is a useful search term ...

  34. Tetsugaku-San

    Ah it's so easy to hate veggies isn't it? I wonder why?

    "Not even the most retarded hippie would suggest that you could live healthily on just wheat alone. Strike that, they would. But no-one with an ounce of sense would say it."

    Funny, I've been veggie for ten years and I do alright, I'm 6,7 I go to the gym 4 times a week and I'm one hell of a lot healthier than you - also I don't needlessly murder animals for no other reason than 'they taste nice'.

    You might not be concerned about your carbon footprint but mine is one third yours due to a) not having a car b) not eating meat.

    We'll all be veggie in fifty years like it or not - there just won't be the room to keep making it . . . . .

    No doubt these arguments won't make a sliver of difference to your entrenched views - fine. But you'll all end up thinking this way like it or not, it's only maths. 6 Billion and counting in fact.

  35. Rob Aley
    Thumb Up

    To sum up the facts

    The main problems with cows :

    - cows fart methane which is not photosynthesisable(sp?) like CO2

    - most industrial cows are grain fed

    - grain is produced using high inputs of oil-based agro chemicals

    - grain fed cows fart more than grass fed cows, particularly those that aren't allowed to roam

    - roaming grass fed cows also help to preserve grass lands from crop farming. Grass lands are great carbon sinks.

    Two solutions :

    - eat less cow meat/milk

    - what you do eat make sure it is grass fed (easiest way in the UK - look for the "Soil Association" organic logo).

    This will reduce the climatic impact.

  36. Chris Miller


    Cakes taste nice because they contain significant amounts of butter and eggs. If you think a bowl of Weetabix (with water, presumably) is a substitute for a well-aged steak, I feel deeply sorry for you.

  37. This post has been deleted by its author

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Why doesn't anyone just address the problem

    Which is that carbon credits are just another tax / wealth transfer that someone is trying to shaft us all with (again / still)...whatever your take...we're the ones who are going to get taken.

    Methane a potent gas? no kidding...just ask my sprog.

    Please, if you want to bankrupt yourself for this nonsense; just go and do it. Avoid all temptation to stick your hand in my pocket for this pile of shit or you'll be pulling back a stump.

    I want my hamburger, steak, ribs. You don't; Fine. Don't

  39. Charley

    That can't be right

    Water "has the odd property of being less dense in its solid form"?? Surely not. Having listened to the greenies we all know that when the North Pole melts it will raise the sea levels to the point that the Maldives will be under water. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    In much the same way that when the ice melts in their G&Ts, the glass overflows all over the bar.

    Makes me wonder why Archimedes ever got out of the bath in the first place.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Easy solution - make smoking compulsory

    Once a smoking farmer has been up close and personal with a cow fart I am certain improvement will follow.

    After he's out of the burns unit, of course..


  41. breakfast

    It's partly about the pasture

    I seem to recall that cows fed on a traditional mixed pasture are much less flatulent than ones fed on intensive monoculture grasses, although the latter, I'm sure, are quicker growing and more productive for farmers. It's not unimaginable that they could make that kind of change, I wouldn't think.

  42. Norfolk Enchants Paris
    Thumb Down

    Oh bugger off Tetsugaku-San

    Self-righteousness is the most despicable of all human vanities. There is nobody more annoying to the 'unconverted' than those who are born-again.

    How dare you suggest that you are healthier than me and the rest of the readers? You have no idea how healthy I am or am not. You have no idea whether my diet contributes, either positively or negatively, to my health.

    Your (apparently) impressive height has nothing to do with the last ten years of your life that you haven't eaten meat, so that is irrelevant but thrown in there as if to say 'oh I am really tall AND a vegetarian.' thereby implying that you feel that most people expect a veg to be a midget. Personally I have what I consider to be a well balanced diet, included red meat, fish, poultry, game, fruit, vegetables, dairy, pulses, nuts, seeds and grains. And probably other stuff too. I am tall and muscular and (until ceasing exercise at the end of my sporting "career") cardio-vascularly very fit. I have also been a vegetarian in the past but found that (a) it inhibited my muscular development (I was quite the serious rugby player) and (b) I liked meat and missed it. Plus having the unfortunate nickname of "Beast" I could hardly be seen at barbeques with just potato salad could I?

    How dare you assume what my carbon footprint is? And how do you calculate yours? Do you include the overhead of transport to the shops you use? If so you will find that you are fiddling at the margins, especially if you are eating imported fruit (tasty but carbon-wise, expensive to transport in general) or imported pulses for those delicious lentil dishes.

    So, quit making assumptions and quit pontificating. Feel free to provide an opinion but make it an informed one.

  43. Anonymous Coward


    Firstly, I don't think cows that make milk are used to make meat so that actually make things worse. However the quantity of milk produced per cow is way greater than that from the meat.

    As for the water vapour argument, the link you point to states that the theory is controversial so it's probably not part of the main stream yet. And anyway, you state that the particulates that we produced in the past would make more rain. Well, we're not producing particulates much, but China is from it's coal fired power stations. I would hazard a guess and say that globally there are more particulates in the air. As for water vapour creating the green house, I think it's more like it helps keep the level just right so that Earth doesn't freeze. Anyway, it's the CO2 and CH4 that cause the rise in greenhouse levels not H2O.

  44. Mark
    Paris Hilton

    re: That can't be right

    What about the miles thick lump of ice on the worlds biggest Island: Greenland.

    Unless we build a REALLY BIG wall around it, this will end up in the ocean where it wasn't before.

    What about the ice on the South Pole? Lots of it not in the ocean at the moment.

    Oh, I know why, you don't want to know anything that doesn't confirm your preselection bias.

  45. Mark
    Thumb Down

    re:Why doesn't anyone just address the problem

    "I want my hamburger, steak, ribs. You don't; Fine. Don't"

    Aye, fair enough.

    You grow your own hamburger, steaks and ribs.

  46. Mark
    Thumb Down

    @Chris Miller

    Do we get eggs from dead cow? Do we get sugar from a cows udders???

    Now, just eat 100% steak. No gravy. No sauce. Nothing.

    Pretty bloody boring, isn't it.

    So if you're going to ask for "pure wheat", I ask for "pure meat". Neither are appetising.

    How about "pure rice"? No worse.

    Pure corncob? Pure Tomatoes are lovely (for those who like them, I don't). Apples? No need to do anything other than pick them.

    Try chowing down on dead cow without cooking it.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    good grief

    The greenies are as bad as the veggies. we're right, you're wrong. we're good, you're bad. veggies good, meat bad. no carbon good, carbon bad. cave good, house bad. primitive good, techno bad.

    give us all a break and keep your religion to yourself.

  48. Mark

    re: good grief

    Stop trying to play the victim card.

    Nobody is telling you you're wrong, you're bad, etc. Just because you see anyone saying "it would be BETTER to do $THIS instead of $THAT" doesn't mean we're picking on you.

    Unfortunately for your victimhood, you then go on and make shit up: "cave good, house bad. primitive good, techno bad." OK you insane shitbag, show where that is mentioned apart from your fevered ego blasting out tripe?

    It isn't.

    So no sympathy for you.

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