Pull my finger
by Baxter Black, DVM
ATTN: This is addressed to teenagers, tuba players and grown-ups in the news media who have gotten great giggles out of the story that cow flatulence is a danger to mankind!
It can be expected from those that have the attention span of a Bartlett pear, but tuba players should know better.
Cows do not flatulate.
Allow me to give you a lesson in bovine physiology. Cows are herbivores, vegetarians. They live on grass. Cows are big. 1,000 pounds. Cows eat a lot of grass. They have four stomachs, the biggest is the rumen. The rumen’s job is to prepare grass and roughage to make it digestible by the other stomachs and the alimentary track. This is done by bacterial digestion and fermentation, and physical maceration.
Now, cows lead a fairly boring life. They graze and chew their cud. The cud is a baseball-size wad of chewed, swallowed, re-chewed, regurgitated, chewed and swallowed grass, ad infinitum. This cud is part of a magnificent digestive mechanism that allows cows and other ruminants to utilize fibrous vegetative material that is otherwise completely indigestible by simple-stomached animals like … people. For instance, cows can derive nutritional benefit from lettuce! Who’d a thunk it!
People eat lettuce because it is the next best thing to eating nothing. If you wanna lose weight, the best way is to eat …(?). No, not lettuce, Nothing! But nobody wants to eat nothing, so they eat lettuce, which is the next best thing.
This whole issue involves greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. There are three; carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide.
METHANE comes from fermentation of organic breakdowns; compost in your flower garden, garbage dumps, rice paddies, wetlands, domestic and wild ruminants, and alcoholic beverages … agriculture produces 5.8 percent of all greenhouse gasses.
CARBON DIOXIDE comes from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas, their energy production, transportation and use. CO2 accounts for 86.3 percent of all greenhouse gasses. Transportation (cars and trucks) amount to 33 percent of all fossil fuels used.
What do we do with all this information? Eliminate non-essential herbivores? Starting with elephants, buffalo, goats, horses, prairie dogs and termites. Next they begin to regulate our diet; no sugar, no organic food (too inefficient) and how about trees? They absorb CO2 and produce oxygen but what if we have too many trees and they won’t let you cut them down? I can picture an army of bureaucrats regulating the use of gasoline, diesel, electricity, construction … wait a minute! They already do!
Back to cow “flatulations;” the methane that cows emit comes directly from the rumen. They belch it up. Not as funny, but at least now you know.
In the U.S., 30 million cows emit more methane than all the cars. And, 125 million cars produce more total greenhouse gasses than cows. Which is worse for our environment? Hard to say which is more essential; agriculture or transportation? How long can you live without driving? ❖