Following the release of a report issued by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) last month, the National Sheep Association have suggested that some people are “hell bent” on portraying sheep as the “enemy”. The report recommends a reduction on UK sheep numbers to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
The report also claims that a 20-50% reduction in lamb and beef pasture could release up to 7m hectares of grassland to be used as land for biofuel and woodland growth.
The sheep industry has described the report as being “hugely frustrating” and farmers have said that we should actually maintain or increase UK sheep numbers. The National Sheep Association (NSA) has opposed the recommendations of the CCC and was quick to point out the environmental benefits of sheep farming.
Phil Stocker, Chief Executive of the National Sheep Association, explains: “Sheep play a huge part in regenerative agriculture. This contributes to keeping our uplands in good condition and improving our lowlands in terms of soil quality.”
He further claims that “putting sheep back into arable rotations would result in a natural regeneration of soil quality and fertility.”
Many sheep farmers dispute the way in which standard carbon footprint calculations are based in this report. The NSA cites two main reasons for this;
1: The report does not consider full life cycle analysis. Nor does it consider the role of animals, pasture and carbon sequestration.
2: The report confuses a natural carbon cycle that has been going on for thousands of years with an industrial carbon cycle affected by the use of fossil fuels and changes in land use.
Speaking on behalf of the NSA, Phil Stocker describes the report as “hugely frustrating” and asks why a body like the CCC would refuse to accept the “natural aspects” of the carbon cycle?
Commenting further, Mr Stocker said: “Some people are hell bent on portraying sheep as the enemy when they actually deliver far more than just high quality and nutritious meat. They could, in fact, be argued to be the ultimate in renewable technology.”