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News Story
10 June 2019
SIANI Youth
SIANI Youth

The animals, the climate and the festival – test your skills in our quiz!

Rabbits have a small impact on the climate and they eat grass, something humans can’t eat.

Photo: Dulap / Flickr.

On May 13-14, SIANI visited the Bolin Centre’s Climate Festival at Stockholm University. The festival is an opportunity for young people to meet climate scientists and other actors who work to hold back the climate crisis. At the festival, the young people were able to listen to lectures by climate researchers, go on climate walks, play SMHI’s modification to Minecraft and talk to various organizations on the activity square – including SIANI.

Didn’t have the opportunity to come to the Climate Festival? Would YOU like to test your knowledge of animals and climate? Click here to answer the quiz! You can also take the test in Swedish.

Drought Exhibition

Agriculture and other land uses are one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the world (about 25% according to the IPCC) while agriculture and rural areas are among those who are most affected by climate change. One example of this is drought, so we at SIANI had an exhibition where we invited the young people to discuss how they were affected by the drought in Sweden last summer and how drought can look in different parts of the world. Even though Sweden reduced its food production by almost 50%, there were few who noticed this in the food store. Instead, they experienced the drought through dried and yellow lawns and difficulties getting hold of water on the hike in the mountains.

Quiz on animals and climate

Most participants knew that animals are an important part of agriculture, but which animals eat food that people eat and how well do the animals fare in Swedish agriculture? These are some of the questions in our quiz about animals and climate. Most of those who did the quiz were aware that ruminants, like cows, emit a lot of greenhouse gases, but when we consider the animals’ environmental impact, there are other things that are important, for example, animal welfare and resource efficiency.

A common opinion among many was that farm animals that not primarily used for meat consumption, such as dairy cows and hens, have it better than animals we eat. At the same time, it may be good to ask what a hen’s life looks like and what happens to her when she stops laying eggs? We also encouraged our visitors to think about what their pets eat and the climate impact of that.

Don’t miss last year’s quiz about different types of milk!

Quiz answers and information

Question 1

Both of these animals are effective in transforming fodder into the meat. Neither of them ruminates, meaning they don’t create any methane in their stomachs. A rule of thumb is that smaller animals equal lower carbon dioxide equivalents. Source: EAT Lancet report “Food in the Anthroposcene” (p. 25, 46 and 471).

Question 2

Pigs and dogs have similar digestive systems to humans and therefore can eat a diet similar to ours. Poultry traditionally eats worms, seeds and nuts they find in nature, but if you keep hens or chickens for commercial use, they are often given grains and pulses (often soybeans). Even though this is the case today, it’s not how it must be. For example, poultry can eat leftover oils like rapeseed and there is potential to feed them insects who are fed on sewage, which would close the nutrition cycle. The bottom line is that in the most widespread agricultural practices we have today, poultry often ends up consuming food we could have eaten ourselves. Source: Naturbrukets husdjur del 2, Josefine Lärn-Nilsson m.fl. 2006.

Question 3

“A natural life” is, of course, a matter of definition, but our reasoning is as follows:

The animal handling methods employed today in Sweden generally allows beef cattle (including bulls), sheep and lambs to live out their natural urges and behaviour, grazing outdoors or walk around inside the barn. This is because you only need them once during their lifecycle, which is for slaughter. Dairy cows, on the other hand, are constantly made to have calves in order for them to produce milk; on average 30 liters per cow and day, which is much more than the calf needs. This breeding has created a situation where their udders have become very big and must be milked several times each day, and sickness or infections in the udder is not uncommon. That being said, Swedish dairy cattle are not living under constant distress, they are just having a less natural life than beef cattle.

Swedish pigs have a much better life than pigs in most other EU countries, but their lives are worse than those of cattle and sheep. This is mostly due to them not getting as much time outside, with only certified ecological production requiring them to be outside at all. The sow is under constant pressure due to her almost non-stop pregnancy or nursing her piglets. Of all the farm animals, poultry lives the most unnatural. In their natural state, they live in flocks of about twelve animals, but in Swedish production they are kept in flocks of normally 20 000 – 30 000 for hens (who lay eggs) and around 80 000 for meat chickens. The production is very intense, with a drastic increase in growth rate, the pace of egg laying and the size of the eggs. Swedish legislation has improved their health compared to the situation in other EU countries, but more can be done to make their lives less stressful. Source: Swedish Board of Agriculture. For more information, read the meat guide from WWF (in Swedish) https://www.wwf.se/mat-och-jordbruk/kottguiden/

Question 4

There are about 163 million dogs and cats in the USA, and producing their fodder requires land, water, fossil fuels and other inputs, just like food for human consumption. Put together, this food, which is often made of proteins that humans could consume, would be enough to feed around 62 million people. Just like with human food however, it is important to note that the environmental footprint of your pets can differ a lot depending on where the fodder is cultivated and the type. In short, you don’t need to get rid of your pet just yet, but it can be worth remembering that this is one part of your personal climate puzzle that you might have overlooked. Source: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0181301