Calls for Government to review resource pack that tells children to eat less meat 

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Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The Minister for Communications and Climate Action Richard Bruton has said he went through a controversial teacher resource pack on climate change in “broad terms” but didn’t go through every exercise before endorsing it. 

It comes as Fianna Fail and farm organisations called for the Government to review the pack.

The guide, developed by An Taisce, includes asking children if they are reducing their carbon footprint by “eating less meat and dairy” has come in for strong criticism from farming bodies the IFA and ICMSA as well as Fianna Fail. 

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Horticulture and Food Jackie Cahill says farmers across the country are furious with the government’s refusal to review the content of the Green Schools content regarding meat and dairy consumption for children. 

“Farmers are becoming increasingly frustrated with this government. Earlier in the year, the Taoiseach stated that he was planning on eating less meat, upsetting beef farmers and undermined Bord Bia’s work, and now the Green Schools programme is promoting Meatless Mondays and a reduction in dairy.”

He called on the Government to immediately have the content of the programme reviewed by the national authority on dietary advice before having schools endorsing it.

IFA President Joe Healy said there was mounting farmer anger that Environment Minister Richard Bruton would support a call for teenagers to consume less meat and dairy products.

“This is not consistent with the dietary advice from the Department of Health. It is clear that many parents already find it challenging to ensure that their children eat a balanced diet.

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"This pack must be withdrawn and amended before it goes back into circulation.”

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association President Pat McCormack said that Government Departments needed to get their act together on such matters and this publication should be immediately withdrawn. He said this was a very blatant case where taxpayers’ money was actually working on both sides of an issue, advocating two openly contradictory messages and causing confusion and irritation. 

The National Dairy Council said it always promotes the advice given by the Department of Health in Ireland which recommends five servings of dairy a day for school going children.

Minister Richard Bruton defended the initiative and said he had “informed” himself enough before endorsing it.

“I went through it in broad terms”, but admitted he didn’t go through every exercise in the pack.  

He also said it is an entirely optional resource on the web, so it's up to the teachers whether they use it or not. 

“This is not a tablet of stone handed down for people to say they are going to accept every word,” he said. 

“Many people young are exploring issues around what diet they should have and what is a balanced diet. I am very clear of the view that a balanced diet should include meat and milk but also in the healthy pyramid it very much includes veg and fruit.

“It’s really important that young people have an informed debate (about climate change) and that is led by a teacher who has resources that allows different views to be explored.  We need young people to be informed and have that debate. That is to be encouraged not censored.”  

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