The idea that a carbon tax on farming and aviation will work by reducing such activities "is nonsense", according to Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, who has a 500-strong herd of Angus cattle.
In an interview in the Irish Farmer’s Journal, he dismissed the growing trend of veganism and classified those who support a carbon tax on farmer as idiots – the Citizens’ Assembly called for such a measure though a recent all-party report on climate action back off endorsing it.
Asked about the impact of the carbon impact of livestock, Mr O’Leary said “the climate has been changing for thousands of years and will continue to do so. Our meat is not intensively reared, we don’t inject it the way they do in the US”.
In relation to his herd at Gigginstown, Co Westmeath, he added: "We produce a very high-quality product and we need to do more to promote it. We need to stop criticising ourselves or listening to idiots who want to tax it."
On the potential impact of a carbon tax on agriculture and airlines, and which would make a bigger difference, he replied: “Neither. Because both will be unsuccessful in what it is they’re trying to achieve. This idea that by taxing something we’re just going to reduce its use is nonsense.”
Last week, Ryanair was classified as one of the top 10 carbon emitters within Europe. It was the first time any entity other than a coal-fired power plant featured in a league table produced annually by Transport & Environment, the Brussels-based federation of clean-transport non-government organisations.
On the contention that veganism was growing in the world, Mr O’Leary said the world was not going to convert to veganism, “the sales at Burger King and McDonald’s continue to rise. It is a fad, it won’t survive.”
Referring to his farming operation, he said he was trying to get people to eat Angus meat because it was by far and away the best beef we produce in this country; “don’t mind those Herefords. Over-rated redheads!”
He said he was endeavouring to keep the genetic standards of his herd up. "We want to make this not just one of the best Angus herds in Ireland, but the whole of Europe".
Asked if his beef farm could survive without his off-farm income, Mr O’Leary said, “generally, the cattle lose money in a year and the horses make up for it. In a good year, the cattle side will break even”.
He confirmed he receives about €30,000 or €40,000 in yearly farm payments but he “would prefer over a long period of time if all these subsidies were removed and everybody went to basic market prices”.