Archive for June 11, 2012

One of the most dramatic contrasts between imprisonment and freedom one will ever see. Is there anything more beautiful than a wild animal set free?

The Guardian, June 2, 2012

Lesser consumption of animal products is necessary to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change, UN report says.

An cattle ranch in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The UN says agriculture is on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth.

A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change, a UN report said today.

As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable, says the report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management.

It says: “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: “Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.”

The recommendation follows advice last year that a vegetarian diet was better for the planet from Lord Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the Labour government on the economics of climate change. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also urged people to observe one meat-free day a week to curb carbon emissions.

The panel of experts ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts. Agriculture was on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth, they said.

Ernst von Weizsaecker, an environmental scientist who co-chaired the panel, said: “Rising affluence is triggering a shift in diets towards meat and dairy products – livestock now consumes much of the world’s crops and by inference a great deal of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides.”

Both energy and agriculture need to be “decoupled” from economic growth because environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income, the report found.

Achim Steiner, the UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UNEP, said: “Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation.”

The panel, which drew on numerous studies including the Millennium ecosystem assessment, cites the following pressures on the environment as priorities for governments around the world: climate change, habitat change, wasteful use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilisers, over-exploitation of fisheries, forests and other resources, invasive species, unsafe drinking water and sanitation, lead exposure, urban air pollution and occupational exposure to particulate matter.

Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.

Last year the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said that food production would have to increase globally by 70% by 2050 to feed the world’s surging population. The panel says that efficiency gains in agriculture will be overwhelmed by the expected population growth.

Prof Hertwich, who is also the director of the industrial ecology programme at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said that developing countries – where much of this population growth will take place – must not follow the western world’s pattern of increasing consumption: “Developing countries should not follow our model. But it’s up to us to develop the technologies in, say, renewable energy or irrigation methods.”


Love these Chinese activists! Please stop condemning the “barbaric Chinese” in racist generalizations. These activists have more courage than ten thousand Western activists, especially of the “vegan abolitionist” stripe, and cannot be applauded enough for their cutting-edge tactics, examplary use of direct action strategies, and reminding us what true “animal advocacy” means in practice — action in the streets, not e-petitions and pamphleting! Unlike Westerners, the Chinese animal rights activists get the fundamental point: you do not follow unjust laws, you break them! Your don’t watch a truck carry animals to slaughter, you stop it!

Dedicated to those who think we have all the time in the world for the glacial (and highly limited or delusional) education and legislation models of change to avert a crisis that is unfolding more rapidly than even scientific doomsayers thought likely …… Also dedicated to those who pay absolutely no attention to booming human population rates, global capitalism, modernization, and what is happening in China, India, Indonesia, and other crisis hot zones …..


The Guardian, June 11, 2012

Data indicate China’s carbon emissions could be 20% higher, prompting fears Earth is warming at a much faster rate

Heavy pollution surrounds the China Central Television (CCTV) building, right, in Beijing.

China‘s carbon emissions could be nearly 20% higher than previously thought, a new analysis of official Chinese data showed on Sunday, suggesting the pace of global climate change could be even faster than currently predicted.

China has already overtaken the US as the world’s top greenhouse gas polluter, producing about a quarter of mankind’s carbon pollution that scientists say is heating the planet and triggering more extreme weather.

But pinning down an accurate total for China’s carbon emissions has long been a challenge because of doubts about the quality of its official energy use data. It is used to compute how the planet’s climate will change, helping plan for more extremes of drought, flood and the impact on crops.

“The sad fact is that Chinese energy and emission data as primary input to the models will add extra uncertainty in modelling simulations of predicting future climatic change,” say the authors of a study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The team of scientists from China, Britain and the US, led by Dabo Guan of the University of Leeds, studied two sets of energy data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics. One set presented energy use for the nation, the other for its provinces.

They compiled the carbon dioxide emission inventories for China and its 30 provinces for the period 1997-2010 and found a big difference between the two datasets.

“The paper identifies a 1.4-billion tonne emission gap (in 2010) between the two datasets. This implies greater uncertainties than ever in Chinese energy statistics,” said Guan, a senior lecturer at the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds University.

That is slightly more than the annual emissions of Japan, one of the world’s top-five greenhouse gas polluters.

Guan said China is not the only country with inconsistent energy data.

Scientists say the world is already racing towards a warming of 2 degrees Celsius or more in coming decades because of the rapid growth in emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Adding another billion tonnes into computer models would accelerate the pace of expected warming.

According to Chinese national statistics, on average, CO2 emissions have been growing 7.5% annually from 1997 to 7.69 billion tonnes in 2010, the authors say in the study.

In contrast, aggregated emissions of all Chinese provinces have increased 8.5% on average to 9.08 billion tonnes in 2010.

By comparison, US emissions were 6.87 billion tonnes in 2010, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The scientists said differences in reported coal consumption and processing at the provincial level were the main contributors to the discrepancy in energy statistics.

The findings also expose the challenges China faces in introducing emissions trading schemes, which need accurate measurement, reporting and verification of energy use and carbon pollution at the local and national level.

Yang Fuqiang, a former Chinese energy official and senior adviser for the natural resources defense council in Beijing, said provinces routinely underestimate both their carbon emissions and their energy utilisation rates.

“I would say the biggest concern about the accuracy and reliability of (China’s emissions) data is coal – and that comes from too many small coal mines supplying small enterprises and industrial plants. They have no monitoring systems and generally speaking, they are also avoiding tax,” he said.

With provinces now under pressure to meet targets, they are now likely to underestimate emissions, he added.

China is committed to reducing energy intensity – the amount produced per unit of GDP – by 16% over the 2011-2015 period, and carbon intensity by 17%. It also plans to cap total energy use at 4.1 billion tonnes of standard coal by 2015.


Still another report for the “Vegan Victory!” cult to bury in their pathetic denialist hole …. The rationalizations given below for the global “need” to shift toward industrialized, intensive confinement, factory farm, agribusiness models, however, are transparently ludicrous, and clearly driven by the profit and efficiency imperatives, while animals are regarded as insentient objects or machines, and skyrocketing demands for flesh consumption continue to drive production of CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) to meet rising demands.


The Guardian, June 5, 2012

Some of the 1,200 sows and 400 piglets at a farm in Suffolk. The NFU wants farms that hold many more animals than this.

The president of the National Farmers Union believes the UK needs more and bigger “super farms” to keep food prices from rising too high and to maintain high animal welfare standards.

Peter Kendall gave his views as figures reportedly showed that the lack of farmland in Britain was now as acute as the shortfall in China.

Proposals for the first livestock farms that would breed thousands of animals have been dubbed mega farms by critics who claim they will create mass herds in sterile conditions where injuries will go unnoticed, disease will spread quickly and the environment will struggle to cope with the slurry and pollution.

But, as planning experts continue to consider at least two planning applications for large-scale pig and dairy farms, Kendall said that more super farms would be created and the government should make adjustments to allow some farms to keep several thousand animals and be part of a trial aimed at helping Britain feed its population as food demand rises around the world.

The problem thought to be facing Britain is highlighted by figures from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board showing that, though Britain has about 5% of China’s 1.3 billion population, it has less than 3% of its land area.

An independent report by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (Post) found that much larger farms than those in Britain could be “both good and bad” for animal welfare and the environment, arguing that they could “potentially” improve conditions for animals and the protection of the environment.

“The challenge of feeding everybody with the constraints of climate change and weather shocks is so great we’ll need a complete rethink,” said Kendall.

Although livestock farms in the UK have been consolidating for many years, Post’s report, entitled Livestock Super Farms, found that typically the units held 100 to 150 head of cattle or pigs.

Even the biggest UK farms are dwarfed by the mega farms of other countries. In the US, farms with 10,000 pigs are not uncommon and Saudi Arabia has a super dairy with a herd of 37,000.

In Britain last year, there was a move to house 8,000 dairy cows at Nocton, Lincolnshire. This application from Nocton Dairies was withdrawn because of official concerns about water pollution and the animal welfare protest that took place at Westminster in 2010.

Two more scaled-up proposals are being considered. These are a farm for 2,500 sows and their piglets at Foston, Derbyshire, and another for 1,000 cows in Powys, Wales.

Last year, too, a government report on the future of food and farming stated that “the global food supply must be increased through sustainable intensification” to cope with population increase, climate change and other factors. Ministers are now waiting to hear from a working group on the subject.

Post records large farms in the UK, but perhaps because they have grown piecemeal, or been split between various land holdings, they have not attracted any high-profile attention from animal rights and environment campaigners.

Concerns about large-scale animal farming fall into four categories: of animal welfare; of super units destroying small farms and rural communities; of farms straining soil and water resources and requiring mass transport of chemicals, generating more greenhouse gas pollution; and of such units being unsightly and emitting foul smells.

Kendall said the UK was about 62% self-sufficient in the food it could produce overall and 40% self-sufficient with regard to pork – so there was “plenty of scope” for big producers while still leaving room for smaller ones.

At the heart of Kendall’s defence of super farms is his belief that bigger farms are more profitable (or less loss-making) so can afford better equipment, more space and experts able “to protect the environment and animals”.

He highlighted the Foston application, from Midland Pig Producers, which proposed building an abattoir near the farm so the pigs would not have to travel far to slaughter.

The plan was also to fit equipment to trap ammonia and other gasses to protect local residents and to generate “renewable” electricity and heat. The applicants had promised to achieve the RSPCA’s Freedom Food accreditation for animal welfare.

Kendall argued that farmers running large units would generally be able to afford to employ veterinarians and other experts such as nutritionists, and to attract other operations to local areas, such as ethanol plants generating high-quality protein waste that could be used as feed.

“I want to make sure we’re not importing food that’s produced to lower welfare standards and therefore driving our farmers out.”

He envisaged more farms on the scale of Foston or the Powys proposal. Much bigger operations, similar to the withdrawn Nocton scheme, could be tried out, he said, though he did not think that would become the norm, principally because it was hard to find locations far enough away from population centres.

“This is about a few experimental versions, so we can see whether it lowers greenhouse gas emissions, see whether it’s welfare friendly, see what the impacts are on the environment.”

Compassion in World Farming (CWF) said it was deeply uncomfortable about mega farms, particularly since they usually relied on animals being kept indoors.

Joyce D’Silva, CWF’s director of public affairs, said there was “good scientific evidence” showing it was better for farm animals to go outside, and that it was harder for workers to pick out lame or ill animals kept in the thousands.

“We see each animal as an individual sentient being,” D’Silva said. “The market would put animals in thousands: it’s hard to treat them as individuals.”

Farming in numbers

110: average dairy herd in the UK

8,000: cows in original application for Nocton super dairy

37,000: size of herd at a mega dairy farm in Saudi Arabia

148: average number of sows on a UK pig farm

2,500: pigs that would be housed in new farm at Foston

10,000: pigs at a US mega farm

Britain urged to ape countries such as the US and Saudi Arabia and build farms housing tens of thousands of cows or pigs.


Also see:

Mega-dairy factory farms are economically unsustainable

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