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New Zealand rejects claim cattle biggest environmental threat

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dpa German Press Agency
Published: Monday December 11, 2006

Wellington- Prime Minister Helen Clark and a farming leader in New Zealand, one of the world's biggest agricultural producers, rejected on Monday a United Nations' claim that cattle and other livestock were a bigger threat than cars to the global environment. Clark said at a news conference that claims in a report by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization that livestock was responsible for more greenhouse gases than cars, planes and all other forms of transport was "scarcely fair."

And Charlie Pedersen, a dairy farmer and leader of the national Federated Farmers organization, said of the report, "I suspect it was written by a vegan."

"We are not talking about cattle; we are talking about food," he told the New Zealand Herald. "If you take that food off the market, you have to replace it with something else. You still have to eat."

Clark said, "To treat methane emissions from animals in the same way one treats, for example, carbon emissions from coal-fired generation is scarcely fair."

She said it was rather obvious what can be done about carbon emissions from coal but not so obvious about what to do about methane emissions from animals. Both gases have been linked to global warming.

New Zealand has more than 9 million cattle and 40 million sheep, which account for about half its total greenhouse gas emissions - a higher percentage than any other country.

But Clark said New Zealand was leading the world in science and is developing a method to deal with methane emissions. Other countries, including Ireland, where farm animals account for about 28 per cent of greenhouse gases, were following its research with interest, she added.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency