Teachers to tell children to eat less meat in controversial climate change document

Stock photo
Stock photo
Communications Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Frank McGrath
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Secondary school teachers are being called on to encourage pupils to eat less meat and run meat free Mondays, in an attempt to bring climate change into the classroom.

The move, endorsed by the Minister for Communications Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton has been slammed by the Irish Farmers Association, which is demanding the resource pack be withdrawn immediately.

IFA President Joe Healy said Ministers and Government Departments should not be endorsing what amounted to propaganda from An Taisce.

The IFA President said the Green Schools initiative is a very positive programme, but he accused An Taisce of crossing the line by including dietary advice in their resource pack. “This is beyond the remit of An Taisce and it not consistent with dietary advice given by the Department of Health, the competent authority, on balanced diets.”

“Farmers are extremely angry that packs like this would be distributed in schools advising students to consume less meat and dairy when both are an important part of a balanced diet. What our children are taught in school should be based on scientific findings proofed by the appropriate state agencies and Government Departments,” he said. 

The teacher resource pack, is available to school teachers to download, is part of the An Taisce Green Schools programme.

In it, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton will help "bring climate action into the classroom providing schools with lesson plans; presentations; surveys and data, to learn and discuss, what is the biggest issue of our time".

Teachers are asked to measure perceptions of climate change, including asking the children if they currently reduce their carbon footprint by eating less meat and/or dairy products.

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The resource pack says to reduce the volume of meat and dairy consumed pupils should research and create an engaging presentation (or write a speech) to inform your peers of the carbon footprint and environmental impact of the meat and/or dairy industry in Ireland.

Further, it suggests pupils run a 'Meatless Monday' campaign in their schools, and give others ideas and recipes for simple healthy alternatives to meat.

It also asks students to get their entire school to pledge to a number of climate action pledges, including one to eat less meat and dairy.

The resource pack states that in Ireland, the vast majority of our GHG emissions arise from the agriculture industry, closely followed by transport and energy (EPA 2015). Carbon dioxide mainly comes from burning fossil fuels.

The main sources of methane and nitrous oxide are farm animals, manure and fertiliser.

Announcing the new resource, Minister Bruton said we need to make sure that the curriculum is there so young children can learn about climate change in a more structured way.

A spokesperson for the Department said it is important that young people debate and discuss climate change.

"It has not been distributed, it is available to download from Green Schools website for interested schools.

"Government advice is that meat and dairy should be part of a balanced diet."

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