(Note to Editors - No embargo)


6th May 2010


A few minutes ago the BBC broadcast an interview with Sir Paul McCartney on the Today programme about not eating meat.   The BBC may want to avoid bias on election morning but it is a pity to then put on air a different form of bias - and to compound that by transmitting wrong information from a 2006 FAO report which has been corrected by the author.


In March, Dr Frank Mitloehner from the University of California at Davis (UCD), author of a newly published study, Clearing the Air: Livestock's Contribution to Climate Change, said it is not scientifically accurate to blame livestock for climate change.  This was followed by one of the authors of Livestock's Long Shadow', (which Sir Paul quoted this morning)  FAO livestock policy officer, Pierre Gerber, telling BBC News that he accepted Dr Mitloehner's criticism.  The BBC itself quoted Mr Gerber: 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, we just used the figure from the IPCC,' so the 2006 report is flawed in its comparison'.   Dr Frank Mitloehner stated that even in the United States cattle and pig farming, much of it intensive, accounts for just three per cent of GHGs whereas transportation accounts for 26 per cent. 

In April a further corrective FAO study[i] on cattle farming and GHG emissions was released.  It says that dairy cattle are responsible for only 2.7 per cent of global GHG emissions and that the revised cattle figure rises to only four per cent if emissions related to beef eaten from dairy animals is included.

Several universities are now releasing studies that show that, except in desert and water logged conditions, pasture sequesters far more carbon than is released by the ruminants grazing it.  Sydney University quotes 8,760 kgs of CO2e is captured and stored by a hectare of grass (the area eaten by a cow in a year) compared to 54 kgs of CO2e burped from each cow in a year.

Another FAO release is entitled "Fighting climate change with grasslands - Vast potential seen in pastures" dated January 2010[ii].  To quote this FAO paper "Grasslands have vast untapped potential to mitigate climate change by absorbing and storing CO2.  Pastures and rangelands represent a carbon sink that could be greater than forests if properly managed."

"Covering some 30 percent of the earth's ice-free land surface and accounting for 70 per cent of its agricultural land, the world's 3.4 billion ha of grasslands can also play a major role in supporting the adaptation and reducing the vulnerability to climate change of over one billion people who depend on livestock for a living.  Restoring organic matter to grassland soils....can therefore help sequester large amounts of carbon - up to 1 billion tonnes a year according to some estimates

The NBA has written to the BBC asking that they go back to maintaining their good reputation for balance and accuracy in broadcasting.

For more information contact:

Christopher Thomas Everard, NBA chairman, Tel. 01398 324 200