Through recalculations based on a new approach, US researchers from the University of Missouri have concluded that the amounts of methane emitted from the waste on dairy and pig farms could be underestimated by as much as 65%.
US factory farms, which house thousands of animals at a time in one building, are often forced to dispose of the overwhelming quantities of waste in manure “lagoons,” open and untreated cesspits holding up to millions of gallons of liquid waste.
Although these livestock waste lagoons generate toxic methane gas as a byproduct, they are rarely measured due to the technical difficulty and high costs. As a result, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had been estimating the emissions of this potent greenhouse gas based on a certain United Nations formula. However, the scientists found that the lagoons generated methane more rapidly than calculated by the UN formula.
This, combined with other equation updates, suggested the current methane emissions could be up to two-thirds higher than estimated. In addition, the report stated that other farmed animal operations may in fact be producing methane pollution beyond the threshold currently required for reporting to the EPA such as livestock farms with less than 3,200 dairy cows or 34,100 pigs. The harmful effects of livestock manure on environment and health due were further described by US investigative journalist David Kirby in an interview.
David Kirby – Award winning US investigative journalist, author of “Animal Factory” (M): There are all the gases that come up off the lagoons, that come out of the barns themselves, and that come from the spray fields, where when they have to get rid this liquid waste. Of course, if the wind comes, well that’s great for the farmer, because he’s just gotten rid of several hundreds of gallons of liquid that just flew away out in the air.
The lagoons themselves give off gas, and they emit methane, which is very hazardous to human health; hydrogen sulfide, which can cause neurological disorders, depression, anxiety, even suicide, aggression – hydrogen sulfide is a horrible thing to be exposed to; and ammonia.
VOICE: Our appreciation, Mr. Kirby and University of Missouri researchers for your factual observations that help quantify this harmful greenhouse gas. With such serious considerations as these, may governments and individuals make the urgent and necessary shift to low-emission, humane plant-based agriculture to save the planet.
Supreme Master Ching Hai has conveyed on many occasions her concern for the environmental impact of animal farming, as during this September 2009 videoconference in South Korea.