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When Sheep Belch, The Planet Warms

Apparently sheep and cow belching accounts for more global warming gases than cars.  I had no idea!  The Wall Street journal has more:  Silencing the Lambs: Scientists Target Sheep Belching to Cut Methane.

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19 comments to When Sheep Belch, The Planet Warms

  • yet another reason to go veg!

  • Hmmm. How can sheep and cow belching be such an issue now when it was not 30 years or more ago? Is society trying to displace our responsibility for what we are doing to the planet? Sounds like something my girls would say, “mommy, it’s not my fault”. =P

  • Get those sheep some Beano!
    Actually I just posted the other day on a related subject about going meatless 1 day per week. Not the total answer but baby steps.

  • Phil

    But if they didn’t produce methane bacteria would anyway:

  • I’m thinking more like Annette. Remember An Inconvenient Truth? There have been a lot of animals on this planet for a long time – why is there a problem now? I’d sooner ditch my car than my sheep, or my cows. I’m not overly religious, but even so I feel that nature was designed that way for a reason. I wonder what the world would be like without animals to graze and digest all the worlds’ fibrous material.

  • We just had one of the coldest winters since my grandparents and parents can remember as farmers. Maybe we should let sheep roam the midwest to help support the global warming myth.

  • Does this mean I’d better go stock up on wool yarn before it becomes politically incorrect to knit with wool? :)

  • deb

    I heard somewhere that feeding them garlic will help, who knows.

  • So interesting – I didn’t realize this would be such a controversial topic!

    Annette & Jena, I believe this is due to the much larger number of sheep and cows we keep for meat. It’s the ruminants specifically that give off the methane gas, due to their particular digestive tracts. Our society has changed to become much more reliant on large feed lots and in general more meat in our diets than, say, when my grandfather was growing up.

    I guess for me I didn’t take this as an excuse to keep our cars, but rather as a reason to not only stop driving, but also eat less meat and to re-think our food systems. Along the same lines as Kory and Rob‘s thinking.

    Phil & deb, The article goes into detail about all the different ways they have tried to counteract the sheep’s natural methane production – including feeding them garlic, chloroform, and a number of other things – but so far nothing has stopped them for long. It seems their stomachs adapt. (Crazy!) The scary thing is that now they are trying to change their DNA to stop the methane production. That seems wrong on a number of levels, doesn’t it?

    Red Icculus, I should have said climate change – we have had a cold winter here as well. I believe it’s due to the changes in the sea currents because of warming waters. Maybe it’s best to just bring one or two sheep indoors for some localized warming. ; )

    Deb G, Depends on whether or not you want genetically modified wool. : ) That seems to be the next hypothesis they’re working on: just turn off the methane gene and it’s all ok, right? What a strange world we live in – that of all the possibilities, this is the reasonable answer.

  • monica

    I think that the levels are more noticeable now because such animals are much more likely to be grown in a CAFO. There they are in a much more confined space so when they belch, it is more concentrated. I would also want to see data compared with the sheep that are free range vs CAFO.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to blame it all on the cows and sheep, then we wouldn’t have to change??!

    BTW: Chewing cud produces some pretty foul breath! EW

  • Seems to me a bit of a push towards a meatless diet that vegetarians and vegans can jump on board with. Is that bad? I don’t know–I think we do consume too much meat (I am a meat eater.) But for me the bigger issue to methane emissions is the land that is needed to produce this meat. Farming grains and greens takes up less space and feeds more people than does raising livestock. And that is an issue I can stand behind… even as a meat eater.

    Excessive land use for meat that feeds few or growing grains to make fuel can move a person like me who has a hard time with seeing burps from animals as a threat to our planet.

    And I read in a book once, cannot recall the title, that if we all cut back our meat consumption by a mere 10% what a difference it would make on the planet and for people.

  • katecontinued

    For me this was one of the corporate media’s shiny object pieces. As is true of every distraction infortainment piece, it gets conscientious people engaged in conversation. That is a good thing in many ways.

    Meanwhile the themes we can organize around, make an impact on or generally improve . . . we look away, we lose focus, we dither, we nit pick, we squabble. Success for corporate forces is when we are all scattered in a million different ways and confused to boot. Damn, it just annoys the hell out of me. This isn’t an attack on Melinda who provides enough real and effective material on this blog alone to fuel a transition town – state – country. Just sayin . . .

  • Red Icculus may have had a particularly cold winter, and use that to assure himself that climate change isn’t real, but we’re nearing the end of a record-breakingly hot and dry summer. More and more people here are getting their head around the connection between the environmental damage we’re all doing (by eating huge quantities of meat and dairy, by driving, by buying stuff from the other side of the world, by sitting in air-conditioned offices) and the devastating fires we’ve had.

  • monica

    About global warming . . . When I was in college, we discussed theories of global warming and polar shift. In this last theory, since the earth remains the same distance from the sun, the earth gradually shifting its tilt will move the polar regions around. Rather than simply just the entire world getting hot all at once, the areas are just going to move.
    Keep in mind this is ONLY a theory that we talked about in class. . .

    Interesting to ponder though.

  • I read that recently too! Crazy! I knew cows=methane, but I had no idea it was at this level.

  • This is one of the many reasons why I have cut down on meat and now the only red meat I eat is Kangaroo. Because they are not ruminants, they do not release anywhere near as much greenhouse gas. Kangaroo are also far gentler on the Australian environment than cattle and sheep.

    Only a few days ago I posted about research that is looking at ways of reducing the amount greenhouse gas released by cattle and sheep. But there are so many other reasons why cattle and sheep are not great for the environment (around 30% of the average persons ecological footprit is from the meat they eat!). For most people the best thing they could do for the environment is reduce the amount of meat they eat -even if it is just one meal a day.


  • I think the cows and sheep just can’t be blamed – as monica says, it is us who overpopulate the planet with cows and sheep, confining them into small CAFO spaces, so that we can eat more meat at a cheaper price. I honestly had not thought of this as being an excuse for anyone to stop worrying about driving, but rather as a motivation for us all to eat less meat. Shawnag, I’ve heard that statistic as well, and I think it’s a powerful indicator of the impact we can have by eating a little less meat each week. katecontinued, you make a great point that this is a divisive topic. Hadn’t meant for it to be so! Lesson learned, for this was a bit disheartening for me. Moving on to better and more unifying things!

  • I just dont think that this is true. mostly because the number of sheep and cows is far fewer than the number of humans…it makes no sense.

  • J C

    if they give out 175 kg CO2 per year each belching, how much do they fart?

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