Who says environmentalism isn’t funny? Yes, it’s all true: prompted by worries over global warming, scientists are working to breed sheep with more efficient digestive systems, in order to reduce methane emissions emanating from their ovine flatulence, colloquially known as sheep farts. The initiative, called Grass to Gas, will draw on a wide range of scientific expertise from academia and industry, according to The Guardian, foreshadowing similar efforts for other species of livestock.
- Grass to Gas will take place over three years, ending in 2022, and is supported by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs; the Research Council of Norway; and New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries.
- The Guardian quotes the delightfully named Nicola Lambe, a sheep geneticist with Scotland’s Rural College, who explains: “The project aims to produce tools to measure, or accurately predict, feed efficiency and methane emissions from both individual animals and sheep systems, which will provide the international industry with the means to breed, feed and manage sheep with reduced environmental impact as part of genetic improvement initiatives.”
- By most accounts livestock are some of the biggest producers of methane, considered a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide; overall livestock are said to generate 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cows are among the main culprits, and although no similar initiatives seem to be underway to breed cows with lower methane emissions, the idea is certainly under consideration.