Manure problem hides impact of dairy on climate, says vegan activist

Darryl Grima, the VeggyMalta founder, talks daily production of cow and pig manure in Malta, reaching peaks of 250 tonnes as his organisation prepares for its annual meat-free campaign 

200 metric tonnes of manure daily is not simply cowsh**, says one of Malta’s foremost vegan campaigners. “The cost is the climate,” Darryl Grima, the VeggyMalta founder, says as he prepares for his organisation’s annual meat-free campaign ‘Go Meat Free For a Week’.

As a critic of the dairy and meat industry, Grima highlighted a MaltaToday story showing that daily production of cow and pig manure in Malta reaching peaks of 250 tonnes, requiring its separation from liquids to be reused as solids in agriculture.

Grima, a member of the ‘End The Slaughter-Age’ Campaign, argues that all animal-based food industries – meat, fish, dairy, eggs – have a devastating impact on the environment. He adds that Malta’s “shocking” manure issue hides the impact that the meat and dairy industry have on the climate.

“The local milk and meat industry are major contributors to climate change,” Grima said, who challenges the notion that animal milk is healthy. “The 200 metric tonnes of slurry waste every day is just a small part of the climate impact the industry generates: the main source of methane is actually coming out from the constant belching of cows, as a result of enteric fermentation in their intestinal tract.”

The meat industry, for example – and cows, in particular – generates more than 15% of greenhouse gases, globally.

Grima insists that it is important that people make the connection between the extreme heat, rising temperatures, the fires across Europe and the glass of milk they drink.

“Don’t support this ‘shitty’ business,” Grima said, who campaigns for plant-based milk as the healthy option, which can be produced from coconut, pea, soya, rice, oat, almond, cashew, hazelnut, tiger-nut, hemp, potato and more. “Apart from being cholesterol-free, all plant based milks have a lower climate impact that animal milks.”

Dairy war

Veganism in Malta has grown in recent years, and with it, a greater awareness of the effect of meat and dairy on human health and the climate. But critics are met with force by the animal rearing industry. When Malta’s animal welfare commissioner, Alison Bezzina, marked World Milk Day with a social media post challenging the need for human consumption of milk, farming activists called the statement an insult to dairy farmers.

Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina caused a stir among farming activists when she challenged the need for human consumption of milk
Animal Welfare Commissioner Alison Bezzina caused a stir among farming activists when she challenged the need for human consumption of milk

Bezzina’s post took a sharp tone on the production of milk, which scientifically cannot be produced by cows unless they have just given birth. The separation of calves from the mother ensures the cow keeps producing milk, a process informed by the maternal instinct, but the young are fed formula. “[Cows] are forcefully and artificially impregnated every year to keep them producing milk… even when separated from their calves, they will continue to produce milk, for months. But this is taken away and sold to consumers. This cycle is repeated every year and only ends with the cow’s slaughter,” Bezzina said, who hashtagged her post with #crueltyfree and #plantbased.

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All humans can digest milk in infancy. But the ability to do so as an adult developed fairly recently, likely in the past 6,000 years. A handful of mutations allows adults to produce the enzyme lactase, which can break down the milk sugar lactose.

While animal rights activists applauded the post, Borg’s reaction prompted a slew of critical comments. “It is a pity for the country that for such a scientific matter as animal welfare we have a Commissioner who has no idea of any aspects of the subject matter,” MCAST’s deputy director for agriculture studies Malcolm Borg, also founder of the Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi.

“This issue is sensationalized so easily that logic, rationale or simple research is bypassed. And the Commissioner thinks that she’s doing the animals a favour by further adding fuel to the fire. Vegans think they are called for this battle to fight the livestock evil,” Borg said.

Borg also called Bezzina’s appointment a sop to animal lovers, saying she was not informed as to the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.