Bristol cows 'as damaging as airports'
Plans to graze cattle in a Bristol park to provide beef for city schools have come under fire from vegans and environmental campaigners.
One opponent of the city council plan to produce its own meat supply claims it would be "like opening a new runway at an airport" – because of the greenhouse gas emissions caused when cows break wind and burp.
The council announced it wanted to acquire Stoke Park, the 200-acre parkland in front of the landmark Dower House alongside the M32 between Stapleton and Lockleaze, in February.
This would allow it to graze a herd of cows on the land, and start producing its own beef for schools and posh restaurants.
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But critics say the amount of methane gas a herd would create while ruminating on grass would be harmful to the environment.
Methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, the gas produced by the exhausts of cars and other vehicles using the neighbouring M32 and most commonly measured in assessing how human activity affects global warming.
Researchers claim cows produce up to 10kg of methane each per year.
The council's ruling Liberal Democrat cabinet is being recommended to approve the plan when it meets on Thursday.
The Bristol-based Soil Association has been involved in planning how the site would be managed and what kind of livestock would be used.
Phil Stocker, director of farmer and grower relations, told the Post it would be a small-scale operation of 30 breeding cows providing calves for beef production after two-and-a-half years.
There would be between 70 and 90 livestock on site at any one time, with the aim of producing six tonnes of beef after two years.
Mr Stocker said: "We are looking at a traditional breed, something like a Long Horn. They are an attractive breed that graze well and produce a distinctive and tasty beef. The beef produced would be sold or made available for the Bristol area – there is quite a lot of community interest."
Mr Stocker said management of the site was still being looked at but the council has looked at bringing in a local farmer.
Vegans eat no animal products, including milk and eggs.
Organiser of the Bristol Vegan Fayre Tim Barford, 45, of Blackboy Hill, condemned the proposals as environmentally unfriendly and unhealthy.
He said: "Livestock is responsible for 18 per cent of global emissions, that is more than transport, which is 13 per cent. Effectively what they're proposing is like opening a new runway at an airport.
"In a time when we're trying to cut back on global emissions, it's absolutely mad. I suggest they should use that land to grow crops to feed people, or grain as a gift to the developing world that is suffering from starvation."
Bristol Parks Forum and community group Lockleaze Voice have both supported the acquisition of the park, provided adequate public access is ensured and wildlife protected.
But lecturer and Green campaigner Glenn Vowles, 46, of Knowle, said: "There are serious questions as to whether a council should be doing this at all, with all the core responsibilities they already have for education, transport, housing and so on.
"Even more odd to go for beef farming because it's hardly a green option and apart from that it could be dogged by all sorts of problems, especially in the event of disease outbreak."
But although she had some concerns about how it might work in practice, Ms McCarthy said the Bristol venture would be too small to have a significant effect.
She said: "I don't think you can regard a field full of cows as a threat, it's more about the collective impact.
"If we're talking about 100 cows, I wouldn't say it will be a problem."
The council's only Green Party councillor Charlie Bolton (Southville) said: "I'm very happy the green space is being preserved, but in terms of running a herd of cattle, I don't think the council is the best to do that."
Councillor Gary Hopkins (Lib Dem, Knowle), executive member for environment and community safety, said he will discuss the issues surrounding the proposal ahead of the meeting in next week's Post.