Methane is a natural gas released by the decay of organic compounds and the gas produced by cows accounts for 16% of emissions. The Hindu religion is the predominant belief system in India and dictates that cows are sacred beings, resulting in the widespread outlaw of cow slaughter throughout the country. Despite the illegality of cow slaughter in the country, India has the largest livestock population in the world- 485 million, 283 million of which are cows- producing most of the world’s milk and 11.75 million tonnes (mt) of methane every year. The gas is also produced by natural gas fields, landfills, wastewater sludge, and manure.
Cows are ruminants (they are meant to digest grasses) and produce less gas if they eat their natural diets. The religious beliefs of Hindus in India would result in better care, thus less gas produced, per animal if the farmers could afford to feed their animals an improved diet, but unfortunately many of the cows are underfed and unhealthy, making them produce higher levels of methane. (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1890646,00.html)
The EPA produced the following figures on Methane emission from manure management (in Million tones):
United States: 39.18
The livestock in India contributes to methane levels due to their high number and undernourished diet; the country’s religious beliefs have less to do with that than the need for income generated by cow’s milk (5.3% GDP).
India releases a great deal of methane into the air because (a) there are a great deal of cows in India, and (b) India is a newly-industrialized country, producing a great deal of air pollution from its urban centers.
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