Dr. Saddler’s Misconceptions About Beef and Our Environment

Posted on July 30, 2008

Something I just sent off… maybe interesting to Whirled Peas readers… maybe not.

To the Editor:

I refer to Tuesday’s article about Dr. Hugh Saddler, who advised the government not to include agricultural emissions in a trading scheme. Although not including agriculture in an emissions trading scheme would be a disaster for our future, Dr. Saddler made a couple of important points.

Firstly, he mentioned that there is little that beef farmers can do about the emissions from their cattle, and that the purpose of pricing emissions is to change behaviour. Dr. Saddler wrongly surmised that there is no variability in behaviour here, which led him to tell us that a price on agriculture would be purposeless. Not so. Beef is a behaviour that is even more variable than modes of transport and energy use. While it is very difficult to live in society without making use of transport or energy, it is painlessly possible to live without the use of beef.

Secondly, he mentioned that agricultural emissions are spread over a large variety of farms. True and poignant, but this is far from an insurmountable problem. As animal industries make up the bulk of emissions from the sector, gastric emissions could be levied at the slaughterhouse. Breed, weight, age and other variables can be measured here in bulk, allowing the government, on behalf of the Australia public, to charge all emitters the due. And this is important, if we are to adopt sustainable eating practices.

Australians need to be aware that if each person on earth emitted like an Australian, the global emission figure would be five times higher. Not only that but the livestock industry is responsible for the continued environmental devastation of our country. In 2001 Senator Robert Hill spoke to the industry about its responsibility for land clearing, salinity, erosion. His challenge to the industry to go clean is unmet, because it isn’t possible for the industry to change. The meat industry needs to devastate our environment to stay alive. But we don’t need meat, which is now a recognised medical fact. Meat is directly linked to the ‘three killers’ in Australia: heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

As a healthy lacto-vegetarian of six years and a vegan of one, I’d encourage all my fellow citizens to undercut the emissions from animal agriculture (nearly 30% of Australia’s GHG emission according to the CSIRO) by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Regardless, we need to accept the costs associated without our beefy lifestyle and worthless export industry (less than 3% of GDP for 30% of GHG? That’s nuts.).


Alistair Dark