On a day when a UN report found the immediate consequences of climate change are worse than previously thought, customers and staff at a Dublin restaurant emphasised the importance of eating less meat in a bid to reduce emissions.
Aisling Dooley (19), serving food at vegetarian restaurant Cornucopia, still remembers her last meal before converting to vegetarianism - and later veganism - four years ago.
She cites affection for animals as her main motivation for giving up meat but is also conscious of the environmental impact.
“If a mass number of people did it [GAVE UP MEAT], of course something could change,” she says. “But that would be kind of unrealistic.”
Former President of Ireland and ex-UN envoy on climate change Mary Robinson hopes more people will begin adopting a vegetarian diet to combat meat consumption's negative effects of climate change.
In response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming released on Monday, Mrs Robinson said Ireland is currently a “laggard” on climate change and needs to become a world leader on the issue.
“The report makes it clear we need to get carbon out of the atmosphere,” she said. “We will have to change our behaviour. I’ve said before and I’m trying to do it - [WE]have to become aspiring vegetarians. Eat less meat.”
The report issued by the UN said countries need to take unprecedented action to slash carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association president Pat McCormack criticised Mrs Robinson’s comments as out of touch, but Cornucopia’s general manager Dairíne McCafferty (30) said that’s not the case.
“I think Mary Robinson is fantastic for encouraging that,” Ms McCafferty said. “People are scared that Irish farmers are going to lose money because Ireland is so entwined in the dairy and meat industries. But there are so many Irish local vegetables that can be grown and have much less of an impact on the environment. We need to encourage them to do that.”
Ms McCafferty, who owns the restaurant with her mother Deirdre, grew up consuming a vegetarian diet at home, saying she and her sister Roisín had the freedom to eat what they wanted outside the house.
Dairíne believes the stigma surrounding plant-based diets remain and can intimidate people from trying them.
“It’s become less and less of a taboo to be vegetarian or vegan,” she said, emphasising the diets’ health benefits as much as their environmental implications.
“But it needs to be fully inclusive. It’s a team everyone can join.”
Customer Charlie Fleetwood (30), a film industry worker from Greystones, agreed.
“It’s definitely detrimental to the environment and from a health point of view” he said.
Having not had meat since he was age seven, he agrees with Mrs Robinson’s intentions, but understands and is ok with members of the public who are hesitant to adopt such a stark lifestyle change.
“There’s not much you can say because if someone wants to eat meat, they’re going to eat meat,” he said. “The worst thing you can do is force your opinion down someone’s throat.”