'I had a very nice Hereford steak last night' - says Varadkar under fire for cutting back on meat comments
- It comes after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he's personally cutting back on meat
- Healy-Rae says hard workers need "bacon and cabbage" or "mutton stew" to get them through the day
- A wide-ranging review of the beef sector is being undertaken by the IFA in reaction to growing concerns about the viability of suckler beef farming
The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said today that he enjoyed a nice Hereford steak last night, as he continues to come under fire for his comments about cutting back on eating meat.
Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae has hit at what he called “ridiculous” suggestions that people should stop eating meat to help tackle climate change.
"It’s well easy to know that you’re not a struggling farmer trying to make a living out of farming. You’re the Taoiseach for all the country, not just for Dublin city," he said.
And he argued that anyone doing a hard day’s work need “bacon and cabbage" or "mutton stew" to get them through to dinner.
His remarks came after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments that he’s cutting back on meat to help reduce his carbon footprint.
A wide-ranging review of the beef sector is being undertaken by the IFA in reaction to growing concerns about the viability of suckler beef farming and farming organisations have strongly criticised the Taoiseach.
The president of the IFA, Joe Healy said the comments are "disappointing" and his organisation will be seeking clarification from Mr Varadkar on the matter and he defended Irish farmers' record on cutting emissions.
Rural TD Michael Collins said he was astonished at what Mr Varadkar and claimed it was "against farmers and the meat industry" at a time they are struggling.
Mattie McGrath claimed it shows Mr Varadkar "knows little about rural Ireland and cares less".
Mr Varadkar didn’t say people should stop eating meat but said on Monday: “I am trying to eat less meat both for health reasons and for reasons of climate change.
“But I'd imagine given the amount of travel I do... I'm probably not the best example.”
It came as he said tacking climate change is the “next big progressive cause” that Fine Gael wants to champion.
Healy-Rae was among a number of rural TDs that expressed concern over Mr Varadkar’s remarks due to the threat to the farming industry caused by Brexit.
Mr Healy-Rae said: “It’s easy to know that fellas who are talking about stopping people eating meat never worked hard.
“Because if you’re a hard worker and do a hard day’s work there’s nothing to bring you back and to revive you again than a piece of good meat, whether it is bacon and cabbage or whether it is beef or mutton stew.
“If you don’t have that you won’t rise out the following day and tis easy to know these people that are suggesting that we should give up eating meat, they never did a day’s work.
"If there was a shovel put into their hands they’d starve with the hunger because they won’t make it until dinner time."
Mr Healy-Rae said he isn’t saying the climate doesn’t change, and said that it has “back over the centuries".
But he added: “It’s people suggesting that they can actually control the weather or change the weather situation, that’s where they’re wrong and I don’t agree with that.
“And it is ridiculous to think that people should stop eating meat to change or protect the weather. Ridiculous,” he said.
Taoiseach Varadkar has widely come under fire for remarks where he said he's cutting back on meat to help reduce his carbon footprint.
Earlier Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill had accused Mr Varadkar of making a "flippant comment" that's "totally inappropriate for a head of government and... damaging to a hugely important industry".
Mr Cahill said the industry is "on its knees" at the moment due to low beef prices.
He asked Mr Varadkar to clarify and withdraw the remark.
His party colleague Charlie McConalogue said Mr Varadkar should be "promoting the fact that Ireland is the most efficient country in Europe in which to produce beef" and should be giving leadership to the sector and "not indeed take the approach that you did".
Independent TD Michaell Healy-Rae accused Mr Varadkar of not understanding the anger his comments have caused and said they were "hurtful" to farmers.
He said: "to hear you coming out with a comment like that encouraging people – ‘well you’re going to do your part by eating less meat’.
"It’s well easy to know that you’re not a struggling farmer trying to make a living out of farming. You’re the Taoiseach for all the country, not just for Dublin city," he added.
Mr Varadkar responded saying: "I didn’t give anybody dietary advice or suggest that anyone do anything.
"I was specifically asked what I was doing on climate change and I said that I was trying to eat less red meat – not giving it up."
He added: "I had a very nice Hereford steak last night".
Mr Varadkar continued saying he's trying to eat less red meat for two reasons, health and climate change.
He said: "it’s not flippant. It is a fact that red meat increases instance of cancer and also contributes more to climate change.
"But I can reassure deputies that I have not become a vegan or anything like that and I’m very happy to eat fish landed in Donegal and poultry and turkeys and pork meat and all of the wonderful products that Irish farmers of all sorts produce."