Credit: MaxPixel

Report: Brazil to add 24million Cattle to national herd by 2030

Credit to the Irish Farmer’s Journal, for this scoop, and to their reporter, Declan O’Brien. You can read the full article here, if you have a subscription. But the basics are easy enough to understand:

The ineffectiveness of Government efforts to cut carbon emissions by curtailing Irish livestock numbers has been exposed by forecasts of an explosion in Brazil’s cattle herd.

Projections by Brazil’s beef exporters association, ABIEC, predict that cattle numbers in the South American country will expand by an unprecedented 24m by 2030.

If you want to put that into scale, be aware that in December last year, the Central Statistics Office reported that Ireland’s national herd had fallen from a peak of 6.7m animals in 2017, to 6.5m animals today. In other words, Brazil intends to expand its production of cattle at the rate of about four Irelands by 2030.

Last December, the Climate Advisory Council recommended a reduction in the size of the Irish National Herd, to deal with Climate Change. Hedging their bets, though, to avoid unpopular headlines, they declined to put a number on it, using this artful phrasing instead:

The Council reiterates its view that total cattle numbers currently exceed a sustainable level, notwithstanding important local and regional variations in both economic and environmental sustainability. The sustainable level of numbers is not static and may increase in line with technological innovations, such as dietary methane inhibitors, that decrease the environmental and climate footprint of animal numbers. It may also decrease as a result of lower carrying capacity due to, for example, climate impacts and increased vulnerability.

By the “sustainable level of numbers is not static”, you can fairly assume that what they mean is that the size of the herd must fall, and keep falling. It has, in fact, fallen slightly in recent years, but be assured, Green ambitions are much higher than that. They want millions, not thousands, of Irish cattle to be taken out of the equation.

But for what?

It is completely absurd, and inequitable, that Irish farmers should be asked to reduce their cattle numbers in order to save the planet at the same time as Brazilian farmers are adding four times as many cattle to their own herds. Not only is it inequitable: It is pointless. Total emissions from cattle are going to increase by 2030 even if every single animal in Ireland is gotten rid of. In fact, because of Brazil alone, the amount of emissions produce by Irish cattle will quadruple by 2030, even if every Irish animal is slaughtered.

Green readers, of course, will be quick to dismiss this, and say that it is about some other number, like emissions per capita. But that is, to be frank, stuff and nonsense. The climate does not especially care where carbon dioxide and other gasses are coming from. We either need to reduce total emissions globally, or we do not. This “per capita” stuff is, and always will be, a red herring.

It would be one thing for Ireland to take on wholesale economic damage in the name of saving the planet if the plan might actually work. But such a plan can only work if global emissions are to fall dramatically. And global emissions can only fall if they fall in the countries that produce the greatest number of emissions. If that does not happen, then all we are doing is damaging our economy, and ensuring we have less wealth that we might otherwise have to help us survive the apparently imminent climate apocalypse.

A rational mind would look at the global situation and realise that unilateral Irish efforts to reduce emissions are entirely futile. Humans will always want (at least for the foreseeable future) to eat meat. There will always be a market for beef. Producing Beef is one of the things Ireland is best at. And our beef sector’s contribution to the global climate is unimaginably small. Ireland as a whole produces about 0.8% of global emissions. 35% of Ireland’s emissions come from Agriculture. Irish beef is about 60-70% of total agriculture, meaning that it produces, at an estimate, about 0.2 – 0.3% of total global emissions. Brazil’s decision will add, by itself, about another 1% of global emissions. In other words, if you got rid of every cow in Ireland by 2030, global emissions from cattle would still rise by almost a full percentage point, just on foot of Brazil.

And, of course, to expand its cattle industry, Brazil must make more grassland. It does that, as we know, by slashing and burning the Amazon rainforest. Which means that increasing their herd has a double negative impact on the climate.

So why, dear reader, is Irish agriculture the villain of the piece? Why are we pursuing economically suicidal policies in pursuit of the unachievable?

Hubris and pride, is the answer, and a desire by some people in politics and advocacy to believe that they can save the world. They cannot. Irish climate policy is destroying many more lives and livelihoods than it will ever save.

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