Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
A 2006 study, Livestock’s Long Shadow, claimed meat production was responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions – more than transport.
Its conclusions were heralded by campaigners urging consumers to eat less meat to save the planet. Among those calling for a reduction in global meat consumption is Sir Paul McCartney.
However, one of the authors of the report has admitted an American scientist has identified a flaw in its comparison with the impact of transport emissions.
Dr Frank Mitloehner, from the University of California at Davis (UCD), said meat and milk production generates less greenhouse gas than most environmentalists claim and that the emissions figures were calculated differently to the transport figures, resulting in an “apples-and-oranges analogy that truly confused the issue”.
The meat figure had been reached by adding all greenhouse-gas emissions associated with meat production, including fertiliser production, land clearance, methane emissions and vehicle use on farms, whereas the transport figure had only included the burning of fossil fuels.
Pierre Gerber, a policy officer with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, told the BBC he accepted Dr Mitloehner's criticism.
"I must say honestly that he has a point – we factored in everything for meat emissions, and we didn't do the same thing with transport," he said.
"But on the rest of the report, I don't think it was really challenged."
He said a more comprehensive analysis of emissions from food production was being produced and should be available by the end of the year.
Dr Mitloehner told a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco that producing less meat and milk would only result in “more hunger in poor countries” and that efforts should be focused on “smarter farming, not less farming”.
Earlier this year, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change apologised after wrongly claiming the Himalayan glaciers could vanish within 25 years.