Meat & greens: CELEP response to The Economist

In response to an article in The Economist of 18 January 2014, entitled “Meat and greens”, which depicted pastoralism as an inefficient production system and a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions (, a spontaneously formed team within CELEP formulated the following letter to The Editor:


SIR –Though your article on the subject of livestock farming (“Meat and Greens”, January 18th) raises an important issue, it is based on fundamentally flawed assumptions. The article assumes that intensive livestock production can replace traditional pastoral livestock production. Traditional pastoral livestock production exploits environments, often semi-arid with heterogeneous and highly seasonal grazing resources that are unsuitable for more intensive livestock production, or the production of grains to feed livestock.

Cattle raised by pastoralists may produce large amounts of methane per animal, but this has no significant effect on the net production of greenhouse gases per km2. Grass not eaten by cattle would be eaten by other methane producing herbivores, including termites and gnus, or burnt in seasonal bush fires, releasing CO2. Pastoral production complements, and cannot be substituted by, intensive livestock production, witness the export of over 3.3 million head per year from the semi-arid Horn of Africa via Berbera.


More detailed explanation of the arguments behind this brief letter can be found in a longer letter to The Editor of The Economist on “The future of livestock farming”.

Posted on 9 February 2014 in CELEP Documents, News, Pastoralism & Natural Resources, Value of Pastoralism