Doing a rain dance

My computer is acting up, and I am watching the rainbow wheel spin around. However, I have been trying to be a bit more sanguine about most things, and I guess this is another opportunity to ponder while the desktop restarts. So, I am off to a dairy farmers conference tomorrow, and one of the topics discussed will be lower emissions for the dairy sector.

I do have an issue with the dairy industry being targeted in the area of methane emissions by environmental groups. I am not sure why cow emissions are less palatable than other species’ emissions – do they not deserve to emit as any other living being does? How many emissions do humans release? Should we have fewer people? Who gets to decide this?

I am wary of anyone who thinks they have the ultimate answer to our rapid climate change questions by moving to a completely plant-based diet. The law of unintended consequences often surprises people and I suspect there would be a lot of those. The cows have not been asked, nor have they offered, their opinions.

Meanwhile, your average dairy farmer and processor is not jetting off to environmental conferences. Instead, they are tending the landscape and the animals. One Australian cattle farmer has been doing a rain dance in central New South Wales, and it finally began raining there the other day. He hasn’t been able to grow crops for two years. He stripped off to his undies and ran outside to celebrate.

Wherever they work, farmers are at the sharp end of climate change. While people are buying dairy alternatives (and being a bit forgetful about the mileage associated with the intense processing that many of them have to go through to approximate cow milk – I won’t mention almond drinks), farmers are dealing with what climate change brings, every single day. Floods, droughts, changes in the tariff regimes, a drop in the farmgate price – whatever it is, they tend to absorb and then get on with it.

Our problem is we ignore the agricultural landscape at our peril. When farmers decide they want a break, or they go out of business, go do another less stressful job or retire, we lose someone else that feeds our world.

Instead of making animal husbandry a dirty phrase, people should be celebrating the work and devotion that goes into raising happy, healthy animals that we use to help feed the planet, whether it’s for meat or milk. What everyone should be working on is helping to make that farm the most carbon neutral, animal-friendly place possible, and ensuring their consumer purchases reflect the desire to have high-quality farming. We should not forget that these rural powerhouses support the wider populace and shape the landscapes that we all live in.

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