Red meat – the impact on human health and the environment


Sir, – I read with horror TD Danny Healy-Rae’s comments that reducing red meat consumption would have no impact on human health or the environment (News, January 15th). A detailed scientific review published just last year showed that animal agriculture produces only 18 per cent of food calories consumed by humans but uses up 83 per cent of farmland. The Oxford research team concluded that giving up meat and dairy is the single biggest thing an individual can do to reduce their impact on global climate change.

Also in 2018, the World Cancer Research Fund published its global report on cancer prevention.

After a decade of research their advice on red meat was as follows: “If you do eat red meat, cutting down can help protect against bowel cancer”.

Due to the convincing links between processed meat and bowel cancer, its advice on bacon was to “eat little, if any”. They also advised “meat-free days” to reduce one’s bowel cancer risk.

In the course of my work as a consultant gastroenterologist, I regularly inform people of their bowel cancer diagnosis. For every patient this conversation is difficult, life-changing and potentially devastating. Almost 3,000 Irish people have this conversation each year.

Mr Healy-Rae needs to be made aware that neither climate change nor bowel cancer is theoretical.

Although his comments may have been well motivated, this sort of science denial should have no place in Irish politics. – Yours, etc,







Sir, – Further to Danny Healy-Rae’s claim that “Them fellas that are talking about stopping eating meat never worked hard”, I can only assume he is referring to lazy layabout ne’er-do-wells such as Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Benjamin Franklin, George Bernard Shaw, Paul McCartney, Carl Lewis and Steve Jobs, all of whom gave up eating meat? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Any doubt as to why Ireland performs so poorly in meeting targets to reduce its contribution to climate change is easily resolved when one observes that, in this country, a political leader’s relatively modest and inconsequential personal decision to reduce his consumption of meat is treated as a national betrayal, an attack on rural areas of the country, and, worst of all, a sign that he “never did a day’s work”.

One can only imagine the scale of the political response had the Taoiseach revealed that he had actually made a much more environmentally friendly and significant choice to abstain from meat or animal products altogether, such was the unmitigated horror at his failure to leap ravenously at every reasonable opportunity to consume steak which would be, it seems, the kind of example his critics would like him to set.

If ever one needed evidence of the fact that meaningful action to protect the environment is constrained more by attitude and ideology than practical impossibility, this is it. – Yours, etc,



Oriel College,


United Kingdom.