Facts are under assault in 2020.

We can't fight back misinformation about the election and COVID-19 without you. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact

More Info

I would like to contribute

Dairy cows ride a large rotating automated milking parlor at Kinnard Farms. The Kewaunee County farm milks over 6,000 dairy cows through a  CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations.) (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.) Dairy cows ride a large rotating automated milking parlor at Kinnard Farms. The Kewaunee County farm milks over 6,000 dairy cows through a  CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations.) (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

Dairy cows ride a large rotating automated milking parlor at Kinnard Farms. The Kewaunee County farm milks over 6,000 dairy cows through a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations.) (Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

By Laura Schulte September 28, 2020

Trump misses the mark with claim that Green New Deal proposal wants to ban cows

If Your Time is short

  • President Donald Trump claimed during a Sept. 17, 2020 rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin, that the Green New Deal calls for banning cows -- “Cows are out … They don’t want cattle, they don’t want cows.” 

  • There is no mention of cows in the actual text of the proposal.

  • Supporting documents note it would be difficult to get rid of methane-producing “cow farts”

In a recent visit to Wisconsin, President Donald Trump offered a series of warnings to voters, but here in the heart of dairy country one in particular stood out.

Trump argued that if Joe Biden is elected president, other Democrats would try to jam through the so-called Green New Deal, a proposal aimed at combating climate change and positioning the U.S. for a more environmental-friendly economy.

The proposal was introduced by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and supported by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and others in the Deomcratic presidential primary. Pointedly, Biden did not offer his support for it.

In his speech, Trump argued the Green New Deal sought to do a lot of things, including ban air travel (not true) and require a bridge be built to Hawaii (also not true).

Then he landed on livestock.

"Cows are out," he said in the Sept. 17, 2020 speech. "Cows, they don’t want cattle, they don’t want cows." 

Does the Democratic-backed Green New Deal really ban cows, a major source of beef and dairy products?

No. 

Let’s look closer.

More about the plan

Since it was unveiled in February 2019, the Green New Deal has been a flashpoint in American politics. 

Introduced by Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, the plan calls on the government to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and curb greenhouse gas emissions throughout the economy, according to a Feb. 21, 2019 report from the New York Times. The goals could be accomplished through making investments in cleaner energy and changing many facets of life, such as how buildings are designed, how people travel and what people eat. 

But what about cows? 

According to a Feb. 12, 2019 examination of the Green New Deal by PolitiFact National, there is no actual mention of cows in the deal’s text. 

The first mention of cows came in additional documents posted and shared by Ocasio-Cortez’s staff around the time of the introduction of the resolution. The line in particular that critics seem to have latched onto states "we aren’t sure we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes." 

The statement was a part of a fact sheet that Ocasio-Cortez provided to media outlets, according to factcheck.org, and was also a blog post on her website.

Those documents -- which were never part of the text of the bill -- have since been taken down, but that hasn’t stopped the president from repeating the claim. 

To be sure, cows do play a role in rising global temperatures.

Cows produce methane gas as a byproduct of digestion, thanks to their multiple stomachs. That methane is typically released from their body in the form of burps and sometimes flatulence (ie. farting cows). 

Those cow emissions add up to 70% of all such emissions from livestock, or about 5.5% of greenhouse gases tied to human activity, according to an Associated Press report. In comparison, emissions from the burning of fossil fuels is roughly 10 to 17 times greater than warming caused by livestock farting and burping, the same report said. 

Digging deeper

When we asked Trump’s Wisconsin team for backup, they did not respond to the request.

The strongest evidence against the claim, though, may be comments from Ocasio-Cortez herself.

Shortly after critics took off with the cow claim, Ocasio-Cortez addressed the comments in an appearance on the "Desus and Mero" show on Showtime, according to a March 8, 2019, article in the  New York Times headlined, in part, "No one is taking your hamburgers. But would it even be a good idea?"

That piece quotes Ocasio-Cortez saying:

"It’s not to say you are going to force everybody to go vegan or anything crazy like that. But it’s to say, listen, we’ve got to address factory farming, maybe we shouldn’t be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch and dinner." 

Researchers have said, the Times article notes, that reducing the consumption of red meat, such as beef, would be better for peoples’ health and the environment. But, it acknowledges,  agriculture is a hard industry to completely "decarbonize"  because it’s about keeping people fed. And that would be hard to do without beef. 

Or, for Wisconsin purposes, without dairy.

Our ruling

Trump claimed that the Green New Deal, proposed by liberal Democrats, among other things aims to ban cows: "Cows are out … They don’t want cattle, they don’t want cows." 

But the text of the measure  does not mention cows at all, a once-posted supporting document acknowledged it would be hard to ban "farting cows" and the main sponsor has explicitly said the proposal is "not to say you are going to force everybody to go vegan or anything crazy like that."

We rate Trump’s claim False.

Our Sources

Donald Trump, Rally in Mosinee, WI, Sept. 17, 2020

House Resolution 109, Introduced Feb. 7, 2019

New York Times, "What is the Green New Deal? A climate proposal explained," Feb. 21, 2019

PolitiFact, "7 Questions about the Green New Deal," Feb. 12, 2019

AP, "AP Fact Check: Unraveling the mystery of whether cows fart," April 28, 2019

New York Times, "No One is Taking Your Hamburgers. But Would It Even Be a Good Idea?" March 8, 2019
New York Times, "Biden Announces $2 Trillion Climate Plan," Aug. 11, 2020

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Laura Schulte

Trump misses the mark with claim that Green New Deal proposal wants to ban cows

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up