A British startup has made masks for cows that reduce the methane emissions they produce. The Earth is currently inhabited by more than one and a half billion representatives of domesticated livestock. Scientists are alarmed that the methane excreted by cows has a huge impact on global warming. Prince Charles praised the creativity of the designers, adding that such inventions give us a better chance of winning the climate battle. Environmentalists, however, have their doubts.
According to a report by the US Institute of Agricultural and Trade Policy, the 13 largest US dairies are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions comparable to the extraction of fossil fuels by the world giants. Today there are more than 1.5 billion cows in the world. Each of them, as part of the processes taking place in the digestive tract, expels up to 500 liters of methane daily.
About 95 percent of the methane emitted by livestock comes from their nostrils and mouths, says Patricio Norris, founder of Zelp (Zero Emissions Livestock Project). His startup brings together scientists, veterinarians and engineers who develop technologies to reduce the impact of methane on the environment. Their latest invention – cow masks – was awarded at the end of April in the Terra Carta Design Lab competition under the patronage of Prince Charles, the heir apparent to the British throne.
Prince Charles visited the new Terra Carta design laboratory at the Royal College of Art in London to meet the winners. At the event, he emphasized that climate change has led to crises affecting the entire world and the importance of finding solutions quickly. The prince praised the creativity of the designers, adding that thanks to them “we have a better chance of winning this battle in less time”.
How a cow mask works
The mask worn over the nostrils traps and oxidizes methane when exhaled by animals. As the creators assure, “the mask is comfortable, it adapts to the cow’s head thanks to a mechanism similar to a zipper”. Animal testing in the UK and Argentina has shown that the device reduces methane emissions by 60 percent and has no effect on cow behaviour.
The device is designed to recover energy from the oxidized methane, reducing the need for batteries.
While the main goal of the project is to reduce methane, the mask developed by Zelp also measures feeding activity, location of cattle and sexual activity of females. With this information, the team can monitor individual animals and identify early signs of illness, improving their well-being and reducing farm costs.
Dariusz Gzyra: A Desperate Effort to Defend an Anachronistic Model
The idea did not spark enthusiasm in Dariusz Gzyra, social activist and author of the book “Thank you for pig eyes. How we damage animals”. In his view, the mask is another desperate attempt to defend the anachronistic agricultural model based on the mass exploitation of animals, inevitably related to ethical and environmental problems, making the climate crisis even worse.
Gzyra also sees another problem here:- The owners of a company trying to market methane neutralizing cow masks belong to a family engaged in large-scale cow breeding and they do not hide that profit is a major motivation for creating the device . This is reminiscent of an attempt to salvage a decaying and rightly criticized model of combustion engine driving, which requires fossil fuels. You can install other nice technologies in it to mask the problem or work on a different, better model, to make electric vehicles,” he says.
Consumption of beef and dairy products continues to rise
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that beef and dairy consumption will increase by about 70 percent over the next 30 years.
– We need bold political decisions that will shift agriculture towards sustainable and respectful crop production. Help is needed to make consumers aware of this need and to change their consumption patterns. Cow masks don’t help with that, says Gzyra.
Main photo source: Reuters / FORUM