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Saturday 16 February 2019

Farmers hit out at Taoiseach's comments, claim it's 'open season' on 'undercutting' meat industry

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Farmers claim they are not being afforded a fair hearing as part of an "open season" undercutting beef producers.

They have hit out at comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying he is trying to reduce red meat in his diet for environmental and health reasons.

Meanwhile, a report in The Lancet medical journal calling for a change in eating behaviours has also been criticised by farmers. Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) president Pat McCormack cited a 2017 survey in the same journal that maintained adults cutting back on fats had shorter lives than those who consumed butter, cheese and meats.

"Were they right in 2017 and wrong now, or is it the other way around?" Mr McCormack said. Last week a new EAT-Lancet Commission report warned that meat consumption worldwide must be slashed by 90pc to tackle climate change, much to the ire of the beef industry here.

Mr McCormack said the warnings to cut meat consumption were at odds with the findings of previous Lancet reports. In 2017 the same journal released a survey of 135,000 adults in high, middle, and low-income countries. It found that those who cut back on fats, such as those found in meats, had far shorter lives than those who consumed butter, cheese and meats.

Last week a Lancet report called for dietary guidelines to be radically changed. It called for the introduction of meat taxes and drastic measures to address health and environmental challenges.

Farmers have hit out at comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying he is trying to reduce red meat in his diet for environmental and health reasons. Stock photo
Farmers have hit out at comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar saying he is trying to reduce red meat in his diet for environmental and health reasons. Stock photo

"I don't want to be flippant, but we're constantly being told that our diets are killing us at the same time as we're living longer than ever. Both of those statements can't be right," Mr McCormack told the Sunday Independent.

He added the report's findings were compounded further by Mr Varadkar telling the Dail he was attempting to reduce his intake of red meat.

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Mr Varadkar's comments were criticised by opposition TDs, who claim he could damage Ireland's meat industry.

Certain members of the public have entered an "open season" against farmers, Mr McCormack said, adding they should be entitled to a fair hearing "no less than anyone else" to protect the 200,000 Irish jobs that depend on the agri-food sector.

"Farming in the EU produces around 10pc of total carbon emissions, energy produces over 80pc. When are we going to hear the proposals for that energy production sector that's responsible for eight times more carbon emissions?

"People working in Irish farming generally had every right to expect their Taoiseach to be some way respectful of their livelihoods and the multi-billion euro sector they have built - one that is already looking down the gun barrel of Brexit.

"If this is a global problem then what are we doing talking about an 'Irish' problem? If it's a global problem then the response must be global and that's going to mean a move towards producing specific foods in the specific locations most scientifically suitable with least environmental stress."

Sunday Independent





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