I just returned from Sweden to present my thesis, and stopped by the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties on Climate Change. No-- I wasn't a delegate, rather, I participated in a more productive assemblage of civil society meetings and rallies. Dispite the failure of the official talks, I was pleased at least by the maturity of debates at the street level. In particular, the attention brought upon meat consumption. Placard after placard, a long line of marchers, floats and banners drawing attention to something no one in the mainstream media wants to touch.
The meteoric rise in meat consumption from more afluent Chinese (for example) has two dire consequences for our atmosphere: ONE ) more rainforest and native land is turned into agriculture to grow soya and corn for cows... about 90% of global goes to cows, not to tofu, and along the way more than 10% of the energy is lost; so switching the route that soya travels to enter a Chinese consumer from a "tofu pathway" to a "meat pathway" means that more and more rainforest needs to be converted to make up for that 90% loss in energy. (I hitchhiked in Yellowstone with a german agricultural economist, who balked at the idea that global food shortages and price surges were due to biofuels: its the Chinese, he said, eating more meat). More agricultural and less rainforest releases a horrid amount of stored carbond in the soil and wood into the atmosphere. Globally, deforestation accounts for over 10% of carbon dioxide increase.
TWO ) Cows fart, a lot! Its a products of the long long disgestive tract tackling the recalcitrant cellulose material. Methane is much much worse a greenhouse gas than carbon released from industry and deforestation.
If this sounds like an affront to "Cowboys", its not. On the contrary, I would absolutely LOVE it, if supposed Cowboys were actually out in the plains and hearding grass-fed cattle. If you like cowboys and cowboy culture, eat grass-fed pastural cows, thereby supporting cattle-hearding cowboys (and girls), not the factory "farms" that import corn and soya.