WTF Fun Facts12637 – Cow Burps Seen From Space

While it may be kind of funny, it’s really not a good thing that the methane emissions from cow burps can be viewed from space. That methane actually gets trapped in the earth’s atmosphere and contributes to climate change.

These emissions were detected by an environmental data company called GHGSat. Their high-resolution satellites saw the emissions in February, but it took until April to confirm their suspicions.

The burping cattle reside on a feedlot in California’s Joaquin Valley. According to CNN: “If these emissions were sustained for just one year, enough gas would be released ‘to power 15,402 homes,’ the company said.”

Farm cattle contribute to 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity around the world. In California alone, there are 650,000 beef cows.

This marks the first time that scientists have been able to use satellite imagery to pinpoint methane emissions from cattle farming.

CNN explained the process:

“The company has three high-resolution satellites in orbit, which it has previously used to measure emissions from open-pit coal mines. Each satellite is just the size of a microwave oven, says GHGSat. “This is really pushing the envelope of our capabilities,” said Wight. “What’s unique about us is we can really kind of get to the source” of emissions, focusing in on specific feedlots. Each satellite flies over a designated location for just about 20 seconds, taking a quick “snapshot” of emissions, Wight said. Over time, regular monitoring with these satellites could create a “temporal picture” showing the change in emissions over time, allowing farmers to, for instance, test out the impact of different diets on cows’ methane emissions.” – WTF fun facts

Source: “Planet-warming emissions from cow burps have been seen from space” — CNN

WTF Fun Fact 12600 – Potty-Trained Cattle

Did you know that cattle can be potty trained with less instruction than toddlers? Some say it’s “easier” or “faster,” but that’s really going to depend on your access to and familiarity with each. Still, we didn’t realize cows would have the inclination to do it at all!

Researchers and cattle ranchers have worked together in Germany to train cattle not to pee out in the open. And it’s not a matter of cleanliness; it’s a matter of survival. OUR survival.

There are around 1 billion cattle in the world. Each pees about 10 liters (or 5 gallons) a day. It’s a lot. But we all pee, so what’s the problem?

Well, there are a couple of issues here:
1. When cows release all that urine in barns, it mixes with poop on the floor and creates ammonia, leading to air pollution for nearby people.
2. When they pee in pastures, it leeches into local waterways. And while most places are equipped with treatment facilities, not all of that infrastructure is in great shape and can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of potential pollutants in the water.
3. Cow urine also contains nitrous oxide. This substance gets trapped in the earth’s atmosphere and can prevent heat from escaping into space, increasing our planet’s average temperature.

So, if we can prevent all this, why wouldn’t we? And we can’t stop cows from peeing, so scientists want to see if they can capture the urine in a way that allows them to control it so that it causes less harm.

Potty training cows sounds ridiculous, but so does letting them pollute our atmosphere while we do nothing. (And let’s face it, we’re not getting rid of cows any time soon.)

Of course, they had to call it “MooLoo training,” so some of this remains pretty silly. The experiment also involved a “cow psychologist,” which is not something we ever heard about at career day.

Ok, so what does cow potty training actually look like? It’s not quite as bizarre as it sounds. It’s just a special pen with astroturf that cows can be trained to pee in. The floor is created in a way that allows the urine to be captured underneath. And some of it can even be used to make fertilizer.

Cows are pretty smart, but they’re also encouraged by food – so it didn’t take them long to realize they got a snack after using the “restroom,” making it much easier to train them.

The first experiment involved 16 cattle and the researchers had 11 of them trained after about 10 days.

Now that we know “MooLoo training” works, the goal will be to automate it so it can be adopted by farmers with much larger herds.

If you’re really eager to see a cow use the bathroom, there’s a video below!

– WTF fun facts

Source: “Potty-trained cattle could help reduce pollution” — Science News

WTF Fun Fact 12408 – Meaty Moral Questions

If you’re fully committed to eating meat regardless of what anyone tells you, you may not find this compelling. But the question of why so many of us continue to eat meat despite 1) loving animals and 2) knowing the environmental wreckage the meat industries cause to the planet is – at the very least – an interesting philosophical question. A so-called “Meat Paradox,” if you will.

Put aside your actual choice and your own defenses for a second and consider what a curious situation it really is. We’re not saying everyone should become vegetarians, but ethically speaking, it makes sense to do so if you’re an animal lover and/or concerned about the planet.

Not convinced about the planetary consequences? That’s ok; it’s rare to be taught about them, to begin with! Here’s a great set of facts from IFL Science, a website devoted to translating scientific research for the rest of us, without judgment:

“Raising livestock for meat, eggs, and milk accounts for roughly 14% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Beef production is the biggest driver of forest loss within agriculture. The meat industry has been linked to a host of other environmental harms, including water pollution.

Eating too much meat can be bad for your health too, particularly red and processed meat which is thought to increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Feeding the world’s appetite for meat costs the lives of billions of animals a year, and animal welfare is a concern on farms worldwide, with pigscows, and chickens often subject to overcrowding, open wounds, and disease.”

People get all sorts of sensitive and defensive when it comes to their life choices (which we don’t care about one way or another). So remember that this is purely an ethical inquiry: If we love animals and care about the planet, how do so many of us eat meat without guilt?

The answer? Well, some of us do feel guilty or queasy about it, but it’s so ingrained in our culture that meat-eating is unproblematic that we just go for it. But for others, it requires a little trick of the brain that we don’t even realize is going on. It’s called “moral disengagement,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. We have to disengage from thinking about the moral implications of what we’re doing. And we do it in many ways, including:

  1. Telling ourselves we’re just one person/family and our own meat consumption doesn’t affect much.
  2. Trying to remove animals from the equation and eating meat that doesn’t look much like a formerly breathing thing – like chicken nuggets or burgers.
  3. Avoiding cooking our own meat so we don’t have to deal with the “raw materials.”
  4. Not referring to certain meats as animals. For example, calling cow meat “beef.” (This doesn’t really work for the winged animal world though.)
  5. Convincing ourselves (or letting others convince us) that eating meat is necessary for health. (And while we can’t speak to others’ medical conditions, there’s no condition that requires as much meat as most of us eat.)

We’re sure you can think of others. And, you never know, maybe you’ll learn something interesting about yourself if you stop and think about how you eat meat without picturing the animals they once were.

Self-inquiry is a bit of a lost art, but no one said you had to tell anyone the answers in your brain. Just use them to learn about yourself! It’s kind of cool to assess how our brains work. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “The Meat Paradox: How Your Brain Wrestles With The Ethics Of Eating Animals” — IFL Science