Climate change and beef production

Sir, – To a non-scientist like myself, Ray Bates was doing fine ("Climate focuson farm emissions is misguided", July 1st) until he reached the last two paragraphs.

There he argues that Ireland should remain a low-emissions food producer and exporter “in the interests of EU and world food security”.

He then urges us to approach the climate change negotiations in a rational manner “based on scientific findings and on pragmatism, not ideology”.

Let’s be clear about a couple of things. Firstly, beef and dairy production have nothing to contribute to world food security. If anything they will achieve the opposite in the long term. The idea the people of Africa and Asia will be surviving on Irish beef and cheese in years to come is risible.


As for ideology, the remarkable thing about the evolving climate debate is the level of agreement being reached by so many diverse groups on the need for radical action to avert disaster, with a few notable exceptions. The “keep on drilling” faction led by the American right wing is one. Those advocating that Irish beef and dairy production is good for the world is another.

It mirrors the claim by the major seed production companies that patented GM seeds are also a boon to humankind, as distinct from their shareholders.

Prof Bates calls for a rational approach. I would think that if the biggest source of Ireland’s emissions, at 32 per cent, is beef and dairy production, and Ireland is required to make significant cuts in our emissions in order to meet our commitments, then the rational thing is to start there, rather than expand the national herd as we propose to do.

If every country resorts to special pleading in relation to its national interest, as Ireland is doing, then the negotiations will be futile.

Ireland is one of the worst offenders. A real effort will be required of us. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.