Farmers fume over advice to reduce dairy and meat consumption

IFA demands withdrawal of An Taisce Green-Schools guide to tackling climate change

An Taisce said Green-Schools  was a voluntary schools initiative and the material was available online – it has not been distributed in hard form.

An Taisce said Green-Schools was a voluntary schools initiative and the material was available online – it has not been distributed in hard form.

 

An educational guide issued to schools recommending a reduction in meat and dairy consumption has prompted an angry response from the farming sector demanding its immediate withdrawal.

The offending advice was part of An Taisce’s online Green-Schools teaching aid promoting climate change awareness and advice.

In one section it recommends a “goal for improvement” to reduce the volume of meat and dairy consumption in schools and suggests students hold a vegetarian or vegan “pot luck taster” involving swapping recipes.

While this “goal” sits alongside other aims to reduce vehicle emissions and single-use plastic use, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) took exception.

Its president Joe Healy dismissed the segment as “propaganda” and said dietary advice offered by An Taisce “crossed the line”.

“Farmers are extremely angry that packs like this would be distributed in schools advising students to consume less meat and dairy when both are an important part of a balanced diet,” he said in a statement issued on Thursday.

“What our children are taught in school should be based on scientific findings proofed by the appropriate state agencies and Government departments.”

Not distributed

He demanded that “relevant government departments” ensure the material was either changed or not distributed in schools. While Green-Schools receives support from various departments, it is an initiative of An Taisce.

International research says we must eat less meat to reduce our carbon footprint

Responding to the IFA statement, An Taisce said it was a voluntary schools initiative and the material was available online – it has not been distributed in hard form.

“International research says we must eat less meat to reduce our carbon footprint,” it said, citing a paper published by the scientific journal Nature referencing “several options for reducing the environmental effects of the food system, including dietary changes towards healthier, more plant-based diets”.

It also rejected the notion its teaching resource promoted veganism, as claimed by the IFA. It added: “Green-Schools cannot apologise for promoting actions to help our environment.”

Rebuked

It is not the first time the idea of reducing meat consumption has sparked controversy. When Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently said he planned to do so in order to reduce his carbon footprint, he was rebuked by rural TDs.

Fianna Fáil’s Jackie Cahill rounded on the “flippant comment”, deeming it “totally inappropriate for a head of Government” and one that would damage an important industry.

Green-Schools is described by An Taisce as an international education programme and award scheme promoting a sustainable environment through the implementation of various measures.

The online document also states that agriculture accounts for 33.1 per cent of greenhouse gases.