Just recently I managed a trip away to the big smoke. I 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 reminded me how different life is for people in urban areas with
set hours, a regular income and weekends off. I talked to friends about our life on the land, our
continuing battle with drought and our constant concern for the welfare of our stock. All of them
seemed genuinely concerned and interested.
That was until I met a young, hip and according to him, environmentally aware young man called
Dan. Dan 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 was friendly right up
to 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.
Now, I have had plenty of opportunity to argue my point with city environmentalists on line. My
mode of operandi is to offer them the facts then bow out of the debate. I’m not one to enter into
a prolonged argument or name calling. It’s an entirely different scenario; meeting someone who
challenges your way of life face to face.
He questioned 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 this volley of insults, I wracked my brain
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, 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
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.
Bloody Greenie, I bet he has a mountain of plastic milk bottles piled up behind his shop!