Farmers being ‘misled’ by political leaders that support ‘pollution as usual’

Farmers are being "misled" by political leadership to continue polluting despite the climate crisis.
Faye Curran
Faye Curran

15.05 22 Aug 2023

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Farmers being ‘misled’ by poli...

Farmers being ‘misled’ by political leaders that support ‘pollution as usual’

Faye Curran
Faye Curran

15.05 22 Aug 2023

Share this article

Farmers are being "misled" by a political leadership that encourages them to continue polluting despite the climate crisis.

That's according to environmental journalist John Gibbons, who was speaking to Newstalk Breakfast following opposition to emissions reduction through herd cuts.

Growing political polarisation around climate crisis issues has led to push back from the farmers who feel that they are being asked to shoulder too much responsibility for Ireland's climate targets.


Mr Gibbons said the farming community has perpetuated the idea that farmers are being persecuted.

"The perception that has been sort of presented – particularly through the farming press – [is] this persecution complex," he said.


Mr Gibbons said stricter farming regulations are direct result of rising emissions in the sector.

"From 2000 to 2010, agricultural emissions in Ireland, per policy, were declining slowly but steadily," he said.

"The agriculture lobby got their arm around the Government and persuaded them to pursue an expansionist policy, particularly in the dairy sector.

"Since that time, we've added approximately 400,000 dairy cows to the herd in Ireland, and we've seen the gross emissions across the entire agriculture sector rise by 19%.

"If you're a sector - whatever it is transport, aviation, you name it – [that] increases its emissions by one fifth in 10 years, you're darn right you're gonna have a target on your back."

Climate impacts

Mr Gibbons said farmers are at the "frontline" of the climate crisis.

"Farmers are not idiots – they know that climate change is real but they're being misled by their political leadership who are telling them that we can continue emissions and pollution as usual," he said.

A farmer. Farmer farming on tractor (SPK / Alamy Stock Photo)

Fianna Fáil TD, Jackie Cahill said farmers "recognise" the need to change practices in order to "halt" climate change.

"There is a lot we can do with regards to reducing emissions, which won't impact our ability to produce sustainable food," he said.

"There's not the same focus on transport, or the other sectors, as there is on agriculture.

"It's taken as a soft target – if we cut our national herd, everything in the garden is going to be rosy and that's most definitely not the situation.


Deputy Cahill rejected the idea that Irish farmers are avoiding environmental changes.

"We're one of the probably the more sustainable sources of daily in the world," he said.

Mr Gibbons said it is "hard to understand" how a sector that is committed to reducing emissions continues to see a rise in them every year.

"This is a specific sub-sector that has effectively hijacked Government policy," he said.

'Harassed the scientists'

Mr Gibbons said Teagasc – the semi-state authority responsible for research and development in the agri-food sector – is directed by pro-dairy farming policies.

"The entire organisation has been set up to promote dairy farming, rather than to look at solutions in a scientific way, in my view," he said.

"Jackie chairs the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, and they brought in three EPA scientists to explain the science in great detail ... they harangued and harassed the scientists and told them basically they didn't believe them."

Deputy Cahill said the "intensive questioning" was a way to get at the "facts of the situation".

"This report is hugely critical for the agricultural industry," he said. "Through questioning of the EPA – I make no apologies for it."


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Climate Action Climate Crisis Climate Farming Farmers Farming Jackie Cahill Sustainable Farming

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