Scientists Seek Vaccine for Livestock Flatulence

It's a silent, but possibly deadly, problem.

Feeling guilty about their country's greenhouse-gas emissions, New Zealand scientists want to squelch the biggest source: livestock flatulence.

Methane pumped out the backsides of New Zealand's 45 million sheep and 10 million cattle helps make the tiny country a bigger per-capita climate culprit than notoriously polluted China, reports the Times of London.

So it was with great pride Wednesday that Phil Goff, the Kiwi trade minister, told a Paris meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development that the genome of the microbe responsible for all that methane had been isolated.

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That would pave the way for a vaccine against bovine flatulence, he added, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Of course, because those same gassy bacteria also give sheep, cattle and their kin the ability to digest grass and hay, the vaccine could just cause mass livestock starvation.

And since the natural gas we use to light our stoves is basically methane, perhaps the livestock could contribute to New Zealand's energy needs — though the collection of such bio-methane might be a bit tricky.

• Click here for more from the Daily Telegraph, and here for more background from the Times of London.