George Monbiot’s op-ed this week (“Goodbye – and good riddance – to livestock farming” — 4 Oct 2017) has raised many questions and resulted in the posting of a wide range of opinions to the Guardian’s website. We have written to the editorial board of the Guardian to offer a broader context for this debate, and to share a deeper perspective on the efficacy of holistic management of grasslands. The issue of reducing atmospheric carbon is of concern to us all, and we at Savory welcome the opportunity to work with allies to tackle climate change against a complex backdrop of global concerns.
As you may know, the Savory Institute’s mission is to promote the large-scale restoration of the world’s grasslands through Holistic Management. Often misunderstood, Holistic Management is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ prescription for land management. What it is, is a scalable decision-making and planning framework, enhanced by training, implementation support, and monitoring tied to each unique environment and context. It helps people arrive at better, more informed decisions that balance key social, environmental, and financial considerations.
In the context of the ecological restoration of grasslands worldwide, managers implement Holistic Planned Grazing (HPG) to keep their livestock healthy, safe and productive while addressing myriad considerations, including desired ecological and economic outcomes. HPG was originally devised to mimic the predator/prey relationships that once kept grasslands healthy, and were core to their evolution.
Applied to the debate over livestock vs. no livestock on the land, the benefits of Holistic Management are often overlooked. Mr. Monbiot focused his article on the merits of livestock and grasslands as a solution to reducing atmospheric CO2, yet omitted the considerable benefits of Holistic Management as a tool for tackling the critical issues of soil health, and the loss of topsoil on a global scale, not to mention food, nutrient, and water security, and poverty. An excellent response to many of these issues was posted on Oct. 5, 2017, by Diana Rodgers, RD, LDN, NTP, which included comment and research from Dr. Jason Rowntree, faculty member in Animal Science at Michigan State University.
While we can all agree that industrially raised meat consumption and animal cruelty should end, the elimination of livestock production is not a feasible suggestion for over a billion people around the world who rely on it to subsist physically, and economically. Instead, we should choose to eat meat that has been sourced ethically, from producers who prioritize animal welfare and whose practices can be shown to have a positive and measurable impact on soil health, water quality, and other ecological/environmental benchmarks.
Like Mr. Monbiot, our passion is to mobilize people to take action to protect our planet. We are committed to achieving solutions to the challenges posed by global desertification and climate change, and we want to protect and restore the soil.
That is why the Savory Institute, through its Network Hubs and Accredited Professionals, has trained more than 4,000 farmers around the world to holistically manage over 17 million acres of land just in the past 5 years, adding to the many thousands of farmers and pastoralists that have been trained since the 1980s . The evidence that Holistic Management works is far from anecdotal – the impact is measured by monitoring the health of the ecosystem processes in each unique grasslands environment: its success is documented in a large and growing portfolio of peer-reviewed journal articles and reports. One such example, of which there are many: in a 2015 article in Nature, Machmuller et al, report over an 8-metric ton annual increase in carbon sequestration over a 3-year period following the conversion of degraded cropland to grazing land in Georgia.
Before and After – Africa Center for Holistic Management, Zimbabwe
To achieve impactful and lasting change, it is our goal to support farmers, develop innovative tools, inform policy, coordinate research and bring transparency to the market place. Of critical importance is the need to inspire and inform consumers to support the efforts of organizations like Savory, that are working to shine light on regenerative producers of food and fiber. In 2018, Savory will debut its Land to Market program, empowering people for the first time to purchase food and fashion items derived from livestock managed through practices verified to enhance water, soil, and climate.
As noted, this is a complex issue. The practical application and scientific function of Holistic Management is deserving of detailed examination. To that end, we welcome the opportunity to educate concerned writers, policy makers and researchers at holistically managed sites served by our Hub network, and to share emergent and relevant scientific data that demonstrates the measurable positive outcomes of properly managed livestock through Holistic Management.
We greatly appreciate the support of those who value the important work of the Savory Institute, and our allies who are working towards positive change in this critically important field.
CEO and Co-Founder
Savory Institute and Savory Global