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Thoughts flowed free at urinal during Stock Growers convention

Ron Walter writes about science and accuracy in reporting
Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

Four of us stood at the urinal relieving ourselves and recycling the morning intake of coffee.

We had just heard an expert in air quality tell the Stock Growers convention how a falsely drafted study about cattle methane pollution, equating it with pollution from all trucks, trains and ships, is perpetuated in the media.

“It’s the media’s fault,” growled one rancher.

“At leasts this guys on our side,” said another.

The third boasted “I knew all along it was bull——.”

I thought: They just don’t get it, but kept my mouth shut. These guys are really passionate about their lifestyle and business. I had a vision of the urinal being ripped off the wall to smack me if I spoke out.

The media gets blamed for a lot when it is only the messenger of bad news.

In the case of the flawed study equating cow methane with all commercial transportation pollution, the media reported it wrong, but wasn’t at fault. The statistical information used came from a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization study — a pretty authoritative and usually impeccable source.

That explains the wide use of the statistics around the globe.

Now that the United Nations has admitted the study was flawed, correcting the use is almost impossible as there are so many media, and the data is by now all-over social media. 

Besides, editors generally do not like to see demands for corrections from people who might have a self-interest like cattle producers.

The rancher who was pleased that scientist Frank Mitloehner is on the Stock Growers’ side was out in left field. Mitloehner is a scientist who lives by the facts.

He saw that the study used a life cycle comparison of cows but didn’t do a life cycle comparison for the commercial transportation, investigated and found the widely-accepted data was flawed. In real science there is no taking sides on issues: the facts speak for themselves.

Their attitudes reflect a scary trend of this era in history

A major concern at all levels of society today is the loss of trust; there is a loss of trust in science — be it in vaccination or climate change. The loss of trust extends, understandably to politicians, who have to lie to get elected to the legal processes in our democracy.

The loss of trust has come to food sources as Stock Growers’ president Bill Huber said at one point: “There isn’t much trust in food anymore.”

Trust is a key to any society. There must be trust in the legal system, in the administration and the leaders, elected or otherwise.

Without trust our society will revert to the dark ages of medieval times.

The greatest issue facing leaders today is re-building public trust in our institutions, our leaders and our neighbours.

By the way, three of the four washed their hands before returning to the convention.

Ron Walter can be reached at