In Carol Ryan Dumas’ article, livestock pharmaceutical corporation Elanco’s Animal Health Chief Sustainability Officer Sara Place presents a creative interpretation of the word “sustainable” where industrial dairies can be zero carbon emission entities.

In her view, “shades of sustainability” exist depending on the size and resources of an agricultural operation. But in the case of industrial dairies, which produce massive amounts of manure and climate warming methane emissions, there are no shades of sustainability.

Many industrial dairy narratives greenwash fossil fuel infrastructure and cloak biogas in the language of renewable energy. But digesters only capture a fraction of methane emissions from industrial-scale dairies, releasing carbon dioxide and contaminants like ammonia, nitrogen oxide and other gases that induce smog and cause sickness. Children are particularly susceptible to this pollution as their lungs are still developing.

Instead of relying on false solutions that only bandage a wound in need of serious triage, we need to focus on practices that actually prevent methane emissions and provide healthier alternatives for people and animals. Getting cows off of factory farms and back into pastures is a start. Managed grazing restores cropland and avoids the methane production that results from factory farms’ anaerobic waste management, preventing soil contamination and drastically reducing greenhouse emissions.

There are no shades of sustainability. There are only practices that will save our planet, protect our people and safeguard our natural resources. Factory farms, like mega-dairies, are not a sustainable practice.

Tarah Heinzen

Legal Director,

Food & Water Watch

Portland, Ore.

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