Farmers anger over 'propaganda' as schoolchildren told to eat less meat and dairy
Fine Gael is on a collision course with farmers after Minister Richard Bruton last night stood over a Green Schools programme advising students to eat less meat to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has reacted furiously to the teacher resource pack, which is part of An Taisce's Green Schools programme and distributed to schools all over the country.
The pack has been endorsed by Communications and Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton, but the IFA is demanding the pack be withdrawn immediately.
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.
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.
Last night, IFA president Joe Healy accused Government departments and ministers of endorsing what he claimed was "propaganda" from An Taisce.
While claiming he viewed the programme overall as a positive one for our schools, he claimed An Taisce crossed the line by including dietary advice in the pack.
"This is beyond the remit of An Taisce and is 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," said Mr Healy.
In the pack, Mr Bruton says it 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".
Agriculture and Food Minister Michael Creed said Irish meat and dairy are critically important elements in a healthy, balanced diet, especially for children.
"Irish livestock farming, based on grazing in temperate grasslands, is among the most climate efficient in the world," he said.
He also said meat, poultry and fish provide protein and were essential for growth and repair and sources of iron for healthy blood and that two servings a day from this food group are recommended in the food pyramid.
However, Mr Bruton's department was standing firm on the pack last night, saying it outlines a range of suggestions that schools can choose from.
"This is a discussion document from Green schools. 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.
"We have seen recently the passion and energy that young people have for this issue, and it is important that schools engage with their students and encourage debate on the challenges around responding to climate change," a spokesperson for Mr Bruton said.
Children and future generations will be most affected by climate change, the spokesperson said before adding "balanced diet should also include regular consumption of meat and dairy".