Measuring what we cannot see?

Are we in danger of putting the cart before the horse in bending over backwards to accommodate the requirements of meeting climate change expectations?

Nobody is denying a need for agriculture to re-align some of its management to show due diligence in meeting target emissions. That is not up for discussion. However, the very big BUT is that until we have some firm and reliable figures regarding just how much beef farming adds to the greenhouse gas bubble, then we just do not know which target we have to hit?

It should be an exact science, but it’s not. That’s partly because of the very diverse nature of the stratified livestock sector in Scotland, but it’s mainly because we just don’t know. The reliability of the data we have before us is, therefore, flawed.

This was all brought into focus this week by a rather undignified spat between the Scottish Beef Association and the National Beef Association to which it is affiliated. The NBA wants a ‘tax’ on older and overweight cattle so that the industry can be seen to put its own house in order, while the SBA says that’s absurd because it removes flexibility from the system.

The sad thing is that, despite the claims and counter claims on just exactly how much cattle farming contributes to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it remains the case that you can just about choose the ‘expert analysis’ to ensure the outcome that you want. That is no way to base any regulatory process on.

What the industry needs, should be just the same as Government wants – and that is a peer reviewed, unimpeachable data set for the various functions of Scottish livestock farming upon which we can actually base meaningful targets for GHG reductions. Without that, we really are trying to hit a moving target in the dark with the inherent inaccuracy of a slingshot – and with one hand tied behind our backs.

Positive news for livestock attacks?

IT IS good to see Emma Harper MSP’s legislation, which aims to make those guilty of dog attacks on livestock literally take stock of what they have done, making its way through the legislative process in Holyrood.

The aim of this is to make those who use the fabulous facilities that our countryside offers, be more aware of the crime they are committing when their ‘pets’ attack, maim and kill livestock. This can only be ‘a good thing’, there will be nothing like a considerable fine to sharpen the senses.

Scotland’s open policy with regard to the right to roam is a fantastic thing, but with it comes responsibility of ‘ownership’ of that right. This legislation has the ability to ensure that those who abuse it will feel the full weight of the law and that’s why it should pass through the process unhindered.