Environmental livestock-tarring

–A modest proposal:

Assume livestock are toxic weapons that must be renounced in the name of climate change. Like nuclear weapons, they pose such a global threat that nations sign the Livestock Non-Proliferation Treaty (LNPT). It’s to rollback, relinquish or abolish livestock, analogous to the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty.

How then would the LNPT be implemented, i.e., what are the ways to reduce these toxic stockpiles of dangerous animals?

If the history of the nuclear proliferation treaty is our guide, the livestock elimination focus quickly becomes the feasibility and desirability of particular elimination scenarios. Scenarios in the plural because context matters, e.g., the way South Africa renounced nuclear weapons could not be the same ways Belarus and Ukraine relinquished them, etc.

–So assume livestock elimination scenarios are just as differentiated. We would expect reductions in different types of intensive livestock production to be among the first priority scenarios under LNPT. After that, extensive livestock systems would be expected to have different rollback scenarios as well. For example, we would expect livestock to remain where they have proven climate-positive impacts: Livestock are shown also to promote biodiversity, and/or serve as better fire management, and/or establish food sovereignty, and/or enable off-rangeland employment of those who would have herded livestock instead, etc.

In other words, we would expect–well, how to put this obvious fact?–livestock scenarios that are already found empirically widespread.

–Which raises the important question: Wouldn’t the LNPT put us right back to where we are anyway with respect to livestock? What’s the use of pigeonholing these strategies as “pastoralist” when in fact they are environmentally friendly scenarios based demonstrably in extensive livestock production?

–In case there is any doubt about the high disesteem in which I hold the notion of a LNPT, let me be clear: If corporate greenwashing is “an umbrella term for a variety of misleading communications and practices that intentionally or not, induce false positive perceptions of an organization’s environmental performance,” then environmental livestock-tarring is “an umbrella term for a variety of misleading communications and practices that intentionally or not, induce false negative perceptions of a system’s environmental performance.”

Principal sources

Egeland, K. (2021). A theory of nuclear disarmament: Cases, analogies, and the role of the non-proliferation regime. Contemporary Security Policy, DOI: 10.1080/13523260.2021.1978159.

Houzer, E. and I. Scoones (2021). Are Livestock Always Bad for the Planet? Rethinking the Protein Transition and Climate Change Debate. Brighton: PASTRES, IDS Sussex.

Nemes, N., D. Stabinsky, S.J. Scanlan, P. Smith, T. Smith, M. Aronczyk, S.L. Lewis, A.W. Montgomery, and F.N. Tubiello (2021). An Integrated Framework to Assess Greenwashing. CSSN Working Paper 2021:1.

Swift, J. (1729). A Modest Proposal: For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick. Accessed online on March 1 2022 at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1080/1080-h/1080-h.htm

Terazono, E. and C. Hodgson (2021). “How methane-producing cows leapt to the frontline of climate change.” Financial Times (accessed online on October 10 2021 at https://www.ft.com/content/73e5f1fc-76ac-48b0-871a-7fa4e8bda69b).

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