Australia’s cattle and sheep industry have hit back at makers of the Cowspiracy The Sustainability Secret documentary saying that the environmental damage highlighted in the film does not apply to the beef industry in Australia.
Australia’s cattle and sheep industry’s rebuttal to the Cowspiracy documentary can be found here. Meanwhile, Cowspiracy’s recent response to their rebuttal is as follows below.
While this type of conversation could possibly drag out into a multiple responses, the Australian cattle industry has put their defences and while doing so, they completely fail to acknowledge and understand that we all live on the same planet together.
When it comes to climate change, we are not segregated and everyone is affected. Every individual’s choice affects our future.
Cowspiracy the Sustainability Secret Response
Australian beef production is actually more harmful to the environment and to the climate than in the USA.
- Australian beef and sheep produce 26% of national emissions, far more than the 10% commonly quoted. Beef and sheep production in this country is responsible for:
– Deforestation for pasture – 14% of national emissions,
– Enteric Fermentation – 10%,
– Savanna burning – 2%,
– Total – 26% of national emissions.
- Beef and sheep production is responsible for 30% of national emissions (over 100 years) or 49% of national emissions (over 20 years), if short term emissions carbon monoxide and tropospheric ozone are counted (these are not currently included in the national inventory). This is detailed in the recently released Beyond Zero Emissions Land Use Plan.
- Most Australian beef is grass fed on northern rangelands, grasslands and savanna. Grass fed beef produce more emissions than grain fed due to feed quality. Management interventions to increase methane/beef productivity are selective breeding and growth implants—and both these are commonly used now, so there is little room for further improvement. Most current research is on lot feeding additives, and lot feeding produces only 2% of enteric fermentation emissions, so improvements here will have little effect on overall emissions.
- The “Holistic” method of intensive grazing has been offered by Alan Savory as a solution to increase soil health and soil carbon. This method has been studies extensively in Australia (including studies by MLA) and Savory’s claims have not been supported by data. A review of these methods is here.
- Grazing is the greatest killer of the Great Barrier Reef. Each year the Queensland government produces a Reef Report Card and commissions research on reef health. The greatest killer of coral has been found to be fine sediment, the vast majority of which originates from grazed land in the GBR catchments, particularly the Burdekin and Fitzroy catchments (link). Most of the nitrogen and phosphorous pollution also comes from grazed land. Government plans have been published to reduce pollution, but only 17% of graziers have complied, since compliance is voluntary.
- A recent report by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) found that the external (and therefore unpaid) natural capital costs of beef production on land use, water consumption, air, land and water pollution, waste and greenhouse gas emissions from cattle ranching and farming globally was 710% of revenue. In the case of Australia and New Zealand (analysed together), they found that the unpaid external cost of cattle ranching and farming was US$17.3 billion, compared to a revenue of US$3.4 billion per year.
- Beef and sheep production has been responsible for degrading soil across most of Australia (link).
- 66-68% of all crops used for domestic consumption are for feed, about half for beef and dairy production (link).