Last week I managed a short visit with my daughter and grandkids. I guiltily left my husband on the farm to fend for himself and I believe he lived on oven baked chips and sausages while the laundry piled up beside the washing machine.
A bit of time away from the farm made me realise how different life is for people in urban areas with set hours, a regular income and weekends off. I talked to them about life on the land, our continuing battle with drought and our constant concern for the welfare of our stock. Most seemed genuinely concerned and interested.
That was until I met one particular person. He was young, hip and according to him, environmentally aware. He was friendly right up until the point I mentioned living on a cattle property, then he went straight for the kill, asking me to justify the way I made a living. He apparently just provides ‘good vibes and coffee’ on the mid-north coast of New South Wales but that didn’t stop him from having an opinion on grazing in western Queensland.
He challenged our right to ‘try and breed cattle west of the range’ then launched into a lecture about climate change and methane emissions. I was completely dumbstruck. Never in my life had anyone so blatantly questioned my way of life. Reeling from the smiling assassin’s volley of insults I searched my memory for all the facts and figures I had read recently regarding the carbon footprint of cattle grazing and the true story of vegetation clearing rates.
I made an attempt to inform him that cattle are actually carbon neutral and that dinosaurs would have emitted far more emissions than cattle, that we only pushed to feed cattle and yes, it does grow back. But this guy was slick and professional as he pounded me with his version of the facts, all stored ready for use. I felt cornered and defensive, scrambling for a rebuttal as he launched into describing an atom of methane and how it reflected the sun’s rays causing global warming (I thought we didn’t call it that anymore.)
If only I could have countered with “Grazing 50 cows and 80 calves actually results in the removal of 388 tons of carbon from the atmosphere annually even when you take into account the 32 tons of carbon produced by the processing and distribution of said cattle.”
“Raising cattle, pigs and poultry accounts for less than 5% of the total greenhouse gas emissions.” And “Farmers are causing deforestation? Less than 0.23% of vegetation was cleared in Queensland during 2015-16. That’s less than a quarter of 1%. This includes clearing for housing development in koala habitat!”
It’s one thing to state your case on Facebook and Twitter, but entirely different when challenged with face to face confrontation. There is only one way to succeed in a situation like this; it’s to arm yourself with all the facts and figures. Memorise them and be prepared to be use them with conviction. Next time, I will be ready.