The Irish Farmers Association is ‘very much a vested interest’ that refuses to accept the truth about climate change, environmentalist Duncan Stewart has warned.
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deleted a tweet urging people to eat less meat, after the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) complained.
The tweet asked people to try veggie recipes and reduce their meat consumption slowly – and noted that 10% of the meat people buy ends up being thrown out.
After the IFA complained, the agency removed the tweet, saying it was its intention to share helpful advice and not cause anger. The body said it would welcome the chance to meet with the IFA on the issue.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, environmentalist and broadcaster Duncan Stewart said the IFA is “incredibly out of line when it comes to their whole attitude” regarding the climate crisis.
“They just don’t want to accept the truth,” he said. “It is a bit like Trump.”
The former Eco Eye presenter said the farmer’s organisation has become a “major problem”.
“They are very much a vested interest,” he said.
“They have a conflict of interest because they are not representing most small farmers who can’t make a living out of cattle.
“Of course, they are desperate to maintain the amount of cattle that are being reared in Ireland, simply because most of their income or a very sizable portion of their income comes from the sale or slaughter of cattle.
“The more cattle in Ireland, the more money they make … and it is a really serious situation that we have an IFA that is incredibly irresponsible and is incredibly anti-environment."
Earlier on the show, IFA President Tim Cullinane said it was “completely inappropriate” for the EPA to advise people about what to eat.
He said there was “huge rage” among farmers when they saw the tweet – and insisted that Irish people make their own choices around diet.
“We don’t need an EPA man telling us what we can and cannot eat,” he said.
Mr Stewart said the EPA is an “incredibly important body” that has a responsibility to bring environmental issues to the fore.
“Obviously, meat is an incredibly carbon-emitting food,” he said. “It is by far the highest carbon-emitting food that we can eat.”
“Of course, our emissions in agriculture comprise 38% of all our greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland.
“They are five times the European average per person – not twice, but five times the European average per person.”
When it was put to him that the IFA believes Ireland can produce meat in a sustainable manner, he said: “Irish agriculture is incredibly unsustainable. We have to be honest about it.”
“We have, clearly in Ireland, this agenda of exporting meat and dairy,” he said.
“Now, cattle, beef and dairy are incredibly carbon intensive. If we think of every acre of land or every hectare, when we have cattle or sheep or especially dairy, the carbon intensity of the land is massive compared to that of say cereals that are going into food.”
Last year, the Government asked farmers to cut their emissions by a quarter by 2030.
The IFA insists it can meet its 2030 targets through advances in science.
The IFA has been contacted for a response to Mr Stewart’s comments.
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