4 Nov 2022

A University of California, Davis, specialist in greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, Professor Frank Mitloehner, has said a recent article in the New York Times (NYT) criticising his work will only serve to make him work all the harder to help reduce the environmental footprint of livestock, writes Leatherbiz.

In the NYT article, readers were encouraged to think ill of Professor Mitloehner’s research work because of the so-called revelation that the Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Awareness and Research (CLEAR) centre at UC Davis, which he runs, receives funding from the livestock industry.

Colleagues and supporters of the professor’s work immediately pointed out that he has always been open about this. As recently as April this year, he published a long blog piece on the UC Davis website saying that CLEAR owed its success in large part to the relationships it has built up with government, campaign groups, and the feed, livestock, and dairy sector.

“I couldn’t do my work without them,” he said, “nor would I want to. When they share their experience with us it makes us better researchers. When we discover better ways of doing things and explain our results, it makes them better too. It’s a matter of mutual trust and respect, and a sincere desire to improve upon our current situation.”

He said criticism of his work “not because of the research itself, but because of the support that made it possible”. He described this as “low-hanging fruit for those looking for a quick dunk on social media or in the press; those who often lack the zeal or expertise to discuss the science itself.”

After the publication of the NYT piece, he revealed that campaign group Greenpeace had requested information about CLEAR’s funding, which the centre provided. “We have nothing to hide and much to be proud of here at UC Davis,” he said. Later, the NYT sought the same information, which was a matter of public record.

“As a result, the NYT and Greenpeace published coordinated hit-pieces on me and CLEAR. I can’t describe it any other way.”

But he said he made no apology for being determined to keep up CLEAR’s work. He said: “Our mission is simply to reduce animal agriculture’s impact on our climate and environment, and to do that, we must work with the people who are raising the food that feeds us all.”

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