Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/30/cow_fart_armageddon_thwarted_by_fish_oil/

Irish boffins tackle cow-fart ecopocalypse with fish oil

Planet-busting bovine guff cloud forestalled?

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 30th March 2009 12:49 GMT

Irish boffins believe they may be able to save us all from the scourge of cowfart-induced ecological catastrophe, according to reports. It seems that adding fish oil to the parping bovine planet-wreckers' diet can reduce their methane emissions.

As any fule kno, methane (CH4) - produced in the guts of various animals including cows and humans, and emitted by means of the trouser cough - is a hugely more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, being some twenty times as effective at trapping heat within the atmosphere. Cattle in particular are so flatulent, and produce so much methane, that there have been calls to limit their numbers for the sake of the planet - despite the impact this would have on the availability of cheeseburgers etc.

But there may be no need for all that, says Dr Lorraine Lillis of University College Dublin. She and her team of top Irish guff boffins have recently carried out a trial in which three cows were fed a special diet including fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and had their noxious bottomnal emissions sequestered for analysis.

The special fish-fuelled cow farts, according to Lillis, contained 21 per cent less methane than everyday bovine flatulence products.

"The fish oil affects the methane-producing bacteria in the rumen part of the cow's gut, leading to reduced emissions," said Lillis, speaking at a microbiology conference in Harrogate today.

"Understanding which microbial species are particularly influenced by changes in diet and relating them to methane production could bring about a more targeted approach to reducing methane emissions in animals."

However, simply using fish oil as in the trial might be a bit troublesome.

"Fish oil is expensive and difficult to get," Lillis admitted to LiveScience. Commercial scale bovine guff-buster diet supplements might have to use other sources of omega-3, or risk being too expensive and perhaps encouraging the ongoing worldwide decimation of fish stocks.

When it was revealed recently that human bottom-belch emissions were an eco hazard on a par with Googling - considered by some to be highly damaging ecologically - it became clear that the human race is also part of the problem here. We are farting ourselves towards extinction.

We at the Reg naturally called at the time for the immediate development of automated, in-pant flare stack technology. This would free humanity from the mindless and occasionally painful drudgery of burning off our farts in order to offset our compulsive Googling, leaving of TVs on standby etc. (One methane molecule, when burnt, yields one of CO2 and some water vapour, reducing its ecological burden by 95 per cent: failing to light your farts is incredibly environmentally irresponsible.)

If the new Irish fish oil fart-squelching technology should fail, it will clearly be time for every cow to be fitted with some type of buttock mounted guff-blast detonator kit, or possibly a storage tank allowing the noxious emissions to be burned later as fuel in fart-propelled cars or something. ®