Farmers criticise St Patrick’s Day visits over carbon impact

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association condemn Taoiseach’s comments on meat

The ICMSA said Government St Patrick’s Day trips are a significant contributor to the carbon footprint. Photograph: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

The ICMSA said Government St Patrick’s Day trips are a significant contributor to the carbon footprint. Photograph: Tom Brenner/The New York Times

 

The president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has said that if the Government is serious about climate change then it should take a look at the tradition of sending representatives all over the world for St Patrick’s Day.

Such trips are a significant contributor to the carbon footprint, Pat McCormack told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

He also described the Taoiseach’s comments about how he was cutting back the amount of red meat he eats as “careless.”

Responding to a new study which said that meat consumption in western countries such as Ireland may need to drop by 90 per cent to avert a climate catastrophe and reverse the current obesity epidemic.

The research by 20 influential food scientists, published in the Lancet Medical Journal, suggests the global food system is unsustainable and driving the planet towards environmental destruction while simultaneously leaving billions of people either underfed or overweight.

It calls for a radical reduction in the consumption of meat and dairy in favour of plant-based alternatives.

Mr McCormack pointed out that the study said that meat consumption “may” need to drop by 90 per cent. “Using that word (may) leaves some doubt.

“Life expectancy has never been as long, that’s because of a diet that’s good for us.”

He pointed out that in 2017 the Lancet published a report that said low fat diets were dangerous and that those who eat meat and dairy products live longer.

Ireland has the most efficient dairy industry in the world, he added and the fifth most efficient meat industry because farmers have endorsed new methods that minimised emissions.

“It’s fair to say that the aviation industry is a significant contributor … there’s going to be a significant amount of politicians heading around the globe for St Patrick’s Day parades — maybe they could look at their entire lifestyle.

“In fairness to our economy, outside the cities it is backboned by agriculture – there are 115,000 — 120,000 livestock farmers out there, be it dairy and beef, those individuals are producing product to the highest specification in the globe, and in particular from a dairy perspective, the most environmentally friendly, and our Taoiseach to come out with those comments was slightly careless.”

Environmental scientist Dr Cara Augustenborg, said that Ireland has the third highest rate of emission in the EU and the eighth highest in the world. “We are very high polluters. The issue is that Ireland is not doing its fair share to address climate change.

“If we want the world to address climate change then we need to do our bit too to reduce our carbon foot print on an individual basis. We all contribute to the damage being done through our own activities.”

Responding to the report published by The Lancet today, IFA President Joe Healy said the report fails to take any account of how carbon efficiently food is produced in different regions of the world, or the very high standards that Irish farmers adhere to. Joe Healy said, “Irish farmers are engaged in climate action. We have very efficient food production systems in Ireland from a climate perspective. We are the most carbon efficient dairy producer in Europe and amongst the top five in beef.

The Green Party said the study outlines how major changes in food consumption, notably less meat and dairy, are needed to stop climate breakdown and feed a growing population.

The party called on the Government to “take heed of this clear warning and work to reform our food sector so we can take advantage of these changes and not fall victim to them”.