屁也起革命 Fart revolution

The Australian Government announced in February, research projects worth over twenty six million US to improve the excretions of livestock.

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Wondering about what counts as higher grade manure?? Fact is, Australia is trying to cut her national Greenhouse gas emissions through restraining hiccups and farts of her cattle and sheep population, or decrease the methane content of the flatulence.

The research employs multiple disciplines–through altering livestock’s diet or through biological and genetic technology, the research sets out to manipulate and thereby decrease the fungal concentration in cattle’s intestines or identify ways to develop lower methane excreting species.  Anything to get the new, lower GHG breeds going.

The sheep and cattle population of Australia exceeds one hundred million, of which 30 million are meat or dairy cattle. The methane in flatulence and the Nitrous Oxides (NO2) in manure amounts to the 3rd largest Greenhouse Gas source of the country. Methane and NO2 are much more powerful than CO2 as greenhouse gases. The same volume of methane causes much more greenhouse effect than CO2 does. Accounting in CO2-equivalent, a meat cow emits what equals to 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is higher than the emissions caused by an average 2-person household’s annual electricity use in Hong Kong.

While climate change is already here, the revolution of flatulence cannot be achieved overnight. Meanwhile, the Australian Government is urging citizens to cut down on beef and lamb consumption and switch to eating kangaroo!Apparently, that’s because there exists a special bacteria in the kangaroo’s stomach which makes kangaroo farts methane-free and much lower in GHG concentration than that of the cattle and sheep.

The whole research idea shook me. This is not the first time we have heard of reinventing flatulence. But to believe that it is internationally recognised as *the way out*,  this piece of news disturbs me. So we humans have come to this? Because we cannot change the way people eat, let’s change how the cows do! WIll this entails genetically modified cow stomach? Will this not spark off a whole new round of GM moral debate? My question is,  can we not go down that direction? Just pause to let the figure sink in: there are over thirty million cows in Australia alone! We as humans have such a crazy appetite for beef and dairy products that we boost cattle population to over 1.5 billion–the weight of which exceeds that of the human race.

A typical grown dairy cow emits about 4 tonnes of CO2-equivalent of greenhouse gases. Since the issue of climate change has caught the limelight in different countries in the world, a colourful mixture of organisations and NGOs have emerged to encourage vegetarian diet as the answer to global warming, some even go as far as claiming that it’s mankind’s obsession with meat (instead of oil) that has brought about the whole climate chaos. That being said, I am not insinuating that a complete switch towards vegetarianism is the answer to it all. I believe in choice and everyone should have the right to cut his footprint in a way that suits him. Even if you want to cut meat consumption it does not mean you have to go veggie 100%. But I do think it is high time we start looking into our stomachs and think about what our gourmet indulgence is doing to our Earth.

澳洲政府在本年二月宣布投入二千六百多萬美元,研究改「善」牛羊排泄物的方法。

有沒有想過怎樣才算「改良版」的大便呢?原來澳洲是想抑制國內牛羊打嗝和放屁,又或者改良嗝和屁的成份,減少當中甲烷的含量,以減少國家的溫室氣體排放。

這個研究項目將嘗試改變牲畜飲食習慣、通過生物或化學方式抑制牲畜腸胃裡真箘的數量及根據基因分析來選擇性飼養,務求找出培養最低溫室氣體排放品種的辦法。

澳洲有超過一億頭牛羊,當中三千萬頭牛是作肉食和牛乳生產之用。 這些牲口所排放的甲烷和糞便中的一氧化二氣 (NO2)為該國溫室氣體總排放的第三大源頭。甲烷和一氧化二氣都是比二氧化碳要「勁」得多的溫室氣體。經過運算,一頭肉牛每年的排放量相當於1.5噸二氧化碳,比不少人家居用電一年造成的排放還要多!

氣候變化已救到埋身,要改造牲畜的屁卻不是一朝一夕可行。澳洲政府遂呼籲民眾改吃袋鼠肉,減少對牛、羊肉類的消費!由於袋鼠的胃內有一種獨特的細菌,致使袋鼠屁的溫室氣體量比牛羊低很多,且不含甲烷,因此改吃袋鼠將是解決牛屁問題前的緩解方案。

這個研究的消息讓我很震撼。我們人類竟已走到這一著了嗎?「人改變不了飲食習慣,咱們就改牛/羊的吧!」這樣的研究答案會否需要我們以基因改造技術 「改良」牛胃呢?我不知道。到時想必又引起新一輪GM爭議。可是,我們是否可以不走到那一步呢?單是澳洲就有三千萬頭牛!我們對於牛肉和奶類製品的需求大 到一個地步,全球的「牛口」數量高達15億,總體重遠超全球人口總和。

一頭奶牛每年就排出相當於約四噸二氧化碳的溫室氣體。氣候變化成為國際焦點以來,各地衍生愈來愈多鼓勵人吃素救地球的組織,甚至有某些機構指人類沈迷肉食(而不是石化燃料)是導致氣候變化的元凶!。我不認為所有人也要一下子轉為素食者,每人減排有自已的方法,且減少吃肉不一定等如要全面吃素。但面對這樣的事實,是時候想一想自己的飲食對地球的影響吧?

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