If the entire national herd of seven million cattle was sacrificed “on the altar of climate change” there would be no net benefit because Ireland is “one of the most efficient producers of food globally”, the Dáil has heard.
Former minister for agriculture Michael Creed said Irish agriculture attracts a lot of interest because 34 per cent of emissions come from the sector.
But he said it attracts “unfair heat” because “if we were to lift Irish agriculture, lock, stock and barrel, and put it into any other developed country in terms of its modus operandi and its production systems, it would be far more efficient than the production system of any of those jurisdictions”.
Speaking during debate on the Climate Change Bill he also said that “whether people are vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or are meat and two veg people, in the production of food, greenhouse gases are produced. This is an inescapable scientific fact.”
And he said it raised the question of whether the criticism of the agriculture sector is “ideologically driven by a resistance and objection in principle to meat and dairy in people who would prefer that we drink almond juice.
“They might like to call it almond milk. A litre of almond milk, or almond juice more correctly, requires 6,000 litres of water to produce. This is something that is very often lost.”
But he said the debate should not be seen as a “binary choice between meat on the one hand and vegetables or plant-based diets on the other” as he questioned “big business” and said it was clear that “big money chasing economic opportunity and trying to undermine the reputation of farmers and those involved in primary food production”.
The Cork North-West TD also criticised the Government’s outsourcing of responsibility for carbon budgets to the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) and described it as a “slight on the function of this House and on its primary duty and accountability for budget matters”.
Comparing the CCAC to the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council he said the fiscal council did not introduce the financial budget but “it does exert extraordinary and positive influence in ensuring that we maintain the public finances in good stead”.
Fianna Fáil TD Cathal Crowe said far too few native trees are being planted and that in Clare an initiative is under way to reintroduce "the native sessile oak to Cratloe Woods" where there is now conifer, spruce and Scots pine growing.
He said “those trees are very special and there are very few of them left” but that oak from Cratloe Wood “built the hull of HMS Victory, the Royal Palace of Amsterdam and the roof of the Palace of Westminster”. He added that “we need to get back to this heritage variety of tree that was native to Ireland”.
Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said the retrofit scheme needed to move on to old local authority houses where conditions in many are “absolutely desperate. In many instances, they are the modern equivalent of squalor, being cold and with damp on the walls. This has an impact on respiratory illnesses such as asthma.”
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said Ireland has a strong voice in the world and “we are taken extremely seriously by the rest of the world and other governments when we speak”.
He said Ireland has a seat on the UN Security Council and he urged Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan and the Government to speak out on climate actions issues and challenges facing the world including against the deliberate burning in Brazil of five million acres of Amazon forest, which Mr Ryan should bring up with colleagues in the EU.
“We have a seat on the security council to do so, and we should do so . . . I urge the Minister, deputy Ryan, to bring up what is happening in the Amazon with his colleagues in Europe. The Amazon is being cleared to grow beef to export to the EU and this should be challenged.