What do cows have to do with it?

How livestock contributes to greenhouse gases



A necessity for regulation BIGSTOCK

More than one-fifth of the world’s cows are in India, the number growing more rapidly than for the rest of the world because of the slaughter ban. Cows contribute more to global warming than the entire transport industry, releasing a massive amount of methane into the atmosphere, and a freely roaming stray cow pollutes the environment many times more than a cow kept in a farm. 

A huge number of abandoned cows in India is thus an alarming problem.

Methane is 86 times worse for global warming than carbon dioxide and excessive emission of methane is extremely toxic to global environment and human health. Livestock is responsible for 18% of the emissions of greenhouse gases according to a report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.  

European scientists are increasingly asking for the reduction of cattle livestock. They are proposing artificial milk and meat to reduce the burden on the environment. This plan could perhaps be possible for Western countries. But in India, since India has banned cow slaughtering in certain big states, the problem seems to only be getting worse.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the cattle population of India is a staggering 305 million, easily the largest in the world in 2018. It is estimated that the cattle population increased by 23 million from last year.

According to World Animal Protection, there are approximately 1.5 billion cows releasing 150 billion gallons of methane and dropping 23.7 billion methane-rich cowpats weighing approximately 43.4 million tons every day. It should be noted here that cows are “ruminant” animals that burp every 90 seconds to digest their food.

According to India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests, about one-eighth of greenhouse emission of India was caused by cattle population in 2007, and scientists have recently revealed that the actual figure is 38% higher than previously thought.

Globally, the number of cows is not increasing. In the US, 39 million cows are slaughtered each year. The cow population in the US has slightly dropped, but this is definitely not the case in India. If the number of cows keeps on rising, the environmental ramifications will be catastrophic — and the environmental issue is not a national but a global problem.

Millions of cows have been abandoned by dairy farmers in recent years. At least 5.2 million stray cows are roaming, causing chaos, and these cows grazing on carbon-rich soil causes the emission of CO2 from the ground.

Free roaming cows exhaust four and a half times more greenhouse gases than cows in farms, according to research of Arhus University. These cows don’t get a proper diet that cows in captivity get — they roam for food and eat much more than cows in farms. 

In farms, cows get enzymes that facilitate the digesting process. A longer digestive process makes free cows excrete more, and therefore produce more methane.

Scientists underestimated how much cow excretions contribute to global warming. Methane is a principal component of excretions, and it is noteworthy that methane blocks heat escaping the Earth’s atmosphere.

Europe and the US are working on a plan to reduce their cattle inventory. But it is not possible to reduce the number of cows under the existing legislation. Sterilization of cows could be an option. Chemical sterilization is possible as an alternative to surgical castration.

American scientists say that India can reduce cow emissions by feeding seaweed as a dietary supplement. 

Researchers at the University of California experimented with the ocean algae which they added to cow food. 

The result showed a 30% reduction of methane emissions released by cows.

However, this diet cannot be provided to millions of stray cows. It is essential for the Indian government to bring stray cows in shelters and offer them a proper diet. The Indian government must be called upon to act immediately to save the environment. 

Obaidul Karim Khan is a Business Consultant and Researcher in Denmark. He can be reached at karimkhan@live.dk.

Courtesy: Dhaka Tribune



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