UN not wrong to urge people to eat less meat, says IFA president

Farmers should be gauged on emissions produced rather than food, says Joe Healy

‘Irish dairy farmers are the most carbon efficient in Europe, while beef farmers are in top five,’ Joe Healy said

‘Irish dairy farmers are the most carbon efficient in Europe, while beef farmers are in top five,’ Joe Healy said

 

The United Nations are not wrong in urging people eat less meat and dairy, president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Joe Healy has said.

Responding to latest findings that Ireland has again missed its targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Healy accepted agriculture’s key role in the failure.

Emissions by farmers rose 1.9 per cent last year, according to provisional figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The rise coincides with an increase in the country’s dairy cow herd as part of a national policy to expand milk production.

Mr Healy said he accepted that agriculture is the largest industrial contributor to Ireland’s gas emissions, but said farmers make up the “largest indigenous industry” in the country.

“Obviously, agriculture will always be responsible for a large percentage (of emissions),” he said.

Emissions

But he took issue with how it is measured, saying the industry should be gauged in terms of emissions produced compared to the amount of food produced.

“Irish dairy farmers are the most carbon efficient in Europe, while beef farmers are in top five,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Mr Healy said farming “without a doubt” wants to start reducing its carbon emissions, but he was unable to say when this would happen. The industry was working to a 10-year “road map”.

On the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which recommends switching away from meat and dairy to a plant-based diet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Healy was asked if they were wrong.

“No, they’re not wrong,” he said.

“But I would always say where you go to is the WHO (World Health Organisation).

“If you want advice on proper food, proper nutrition, proper diet go to the WHO, the food pyramid that is there highlights what people should eat at various stage in their life, whether they are young people, teenager or adults. Make you diets, make your choices based on that.”

Mr Healy said meat and dairy is necessary in a balanced diet.