MPs Call For Farmers To Tackle Belching Cows To Cut Emissions

Committee says livestock farmers should provide better diets to "resist" calls to scale back meat-eating
David Cheskin/PA Archive

MPs have urged farmers to do more to cut belching and flatulence among their herds of cattle if they want to ward off calls for people to reduce the amount of meat they eat.

The warning comes in a hard-hitting report on cutting pollution amid fears poor air quality is damaging the UK’s environment and harming the nation’s health.

The cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee of MPs argues while emissions have declined significantly in recent decades there are still as many as 50,000 people dying each year from diseases linked to air pollution.

Among a raft of measures, it call for farmers to put cows and other livestock on better diets.

Farms are responsible for around 13 per cent of global emissions, and a significant proportion comes from methane.

Cows emit a huge amount of methane through belching and flatulence, and the committee notes specifically the need for farmers to "cut methane emitted by cows".

Farmers have been warned repeatedly about the prospect of a "fart tax" to force them to cut greenhouse gases their animals emit, though most commentators say they should be feeding cattle different food.

The report calls for the farming industry to "step up action" to cut methane emissions, and singles out the livestock industry.

It says: "The livestock sector in particular must do more if it wishes to resist arguments that reducing meat consumption is necessary to protect the environment.

"Whether through improved feed to cut methane emitted by cows or better manure spreading techniques, all farmers need to minimise their impact on climate change."

Efra's recommendation for farmers
Efra's recommendation for farmers
Efra Committee

MP Neil Parish, chairman of the committee and a farmer, said: “Farmers are under huge financial pressures at the moment.

"They can save money and help to clean up the environment and improve health if they use the latest methods for managing manure and fertiliser and for feeding their livestock.

"Defra needs to target best practice support, rather than add regulation, to make sure the agricultural sector does all it can to cut pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Its flagship recommendation is for new "clean air zones" targeting drivers of high-polluting vehicles to be introduced in dozens of English towns and cities.

The Government is giving powers to five cities - Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton - but the committee warns the proposal does not go far enough and is a too rigid "one-size-fits-all" model.

The committee also urges the Government to consider introducing a diesel scrappage scheme for older vehicles since they produce more nitrogen oxides than petrol and alternatively-fuelled vehicles.

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