Research in focus: Cattle ranching GHG emissions: political vs. technical arguments
Technical and political arguments conflict in the global regulation arena, which has an influence on changes in the cattle farming sector, for example, via new business practices and the introduction of national public policies.
Objective: To understand how the discourse of environmental impact in cattle farming gained strength in a transactional arena, leading to changes in business practices and public policies.
• An analysis of 179 documents: 44 from players linked to the state; 50 from civil society organizations; 6 from media coverage; 23 studies and academic reports; 14 reports from the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; and 2 reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
• Thirty-one interviews with organizations and players with different perspectives and from different sectors, including social movements, rural producers, major multinationals and government players
• Visits to two model farms
• Various environmental impacts are associated with cattle ranching, such as deforestation in the Amazon region, greenhouse gas emissions and water table contamination.
• The transformation of the sector into a villain of global warming will depend on the negotiations of different players in the global regulation arena, which has influenced changes in business practices and national public policies.
• There are three types of logic behind this dynamic: (i) the scientific logic or technical arguments; (ii) the capitalist logic or arguments associated with innovation and increased productivity as a solution to environmental impact; and (iii) the logic of international trade or negotiation among the different development strategies of countries.
• Any discussion of the environmental impact of cattle farming on climate change cannot dissociate technical arguments from political arguments.
• Global governance depends on confronting different logics. On the one hand, the scientific discourse emphasizes that the sector is significant in terms of environmental impact, mainly due to methane emissions. On the other hand, the capitalist logic argues for the creation of new opportunities through certification, value chain tracking and technologies that increase productivity. Moreover, the interests of different nations rather than those companies are also considered.
• Despite the increasing number of questions being asked about the environmental impact of cattle farming, the issue of reduced meat consumption has not yet gained salience.