Duncan Farrington: Is Richard Branson’s beef boycott hot air?

Richard Branson has reportedly given up beef for environmental reasons, but what impact does his airline have on climate change, asks Duncan
Richard Branson has reportedly given up beef for environmental reasons, but what impact does his airline have on climate change, asks Duncan
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I read recently that Richard Branson has given up eating beef because of his concerns over greenhouse gas emissions produced by cattle.

He is of course correct – cows produce methane (from flatulence), but Mr Branson’s concerns are more about intensively produced beef in South America where cattle consume huge resources to produce beef for North America.

It is a completely different story in Britain and other similar countries, where beef is reared less intensively.

Although it is true cows do flatualte because they are ruminant animals, meaning they eat grass, something we humans are not able to do.

If we all stopped eating beef, what would happen to our green and pleasant land?

Perhaps we could plough it all up to grow more crops to feed a vegetarian world, but there again that would cause other environmental issues, including the emission of greenhouse gases.

Sometimes, out of good intensions and trying to make the right decision, people can get a little sidetracked without seeing the bigger picture.

Besides, did I mention that air travel is a huge cause of greenhouse gas emissions?

What would Mr Branson say about that?

As September draws to a close, we are in the final stages of the busy workload.

Harvest seems a distant memory, and the rapeseed is now all planted and growing well, although a little rain wouldn’t go amiss; now it is just the wheat that needs planting.

Unfortunately, with so many jobs on an arable farm, I don’t have the luxury of a crystal ball to see what the weather is going to do over the next few weeks.

September has to date been the driest on record.

The lack of rain has not allowed much blackgrass and other weed seeds to germinate and grow, which ideally I would like to have a chance to kill off with a weed killer before we start planting wheat.

If we drill too early, these weed seeds will germinate at the same time as the crop and cause problems for the next season.

If we wait too long and the weather breaks, we may struggle to get the crops into good soil conditions, or at all.

The plan is to encourage the weeds to grow quickly by giving the soil a gentle rake, kill off the weeds before planting some fields while the conditions are favourable, then wait as long as I dare before planting the remainder.

In other words, I’m hedging my bets in trying to make the right decision.