'Meatless Monday' campaign is ignoring the values of rural life, farmers say
Farmers have accused An Taisce of undermining rural life after the national trust encouraged students to eat less meat.
The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) criticised An Taisce's controversial new Green Schools resource pack, saying it is anti-farming.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack accused it of ignoring the values of rural life.
An Taisce is a national charity tasked with preserving and protecting the environment. It is supported through memberships, donations and State grants.
It is currently involved in a Green Schools campaign in which packs have been sent to teachers. It suggests students consider taking part in a "Meatless Monday" initiative to cut down on the amount of meat they eat to lower their carbon footprint.
The campaign has been endorsed by Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton.
Mr McCormack has called for the pack to be withdrawn from schools, saying it is "anti-dairy and anti-livestock".
He said An Taisce "seemed unable to look at any aspect of real rural life, whether it was trying to build a house or earn a living, without discovering some reason to object or halt local efforts".
The national trust has long been criticised by communities and public representatives in rural areas over its objections against the construction of one-off homes and other developments. TDs and local councillors have expressed concern that details of An Taisce's objections remain confidential until planning authorities have made decisions in the cases.
Mr McCormack said the Green Schools programme is the latest incident to cause "confusion and irritation" among farming communities.
"The Irish dairy and beef sectors are one of the most sustainable global producers and responsible for high quality, safe, healthy food products.
"We will not accept a scenario where our own production is undermined while imported food products are promoted that, ironically enough, often do enormous environmental damage in their countries of origin."
The ICMSA has contacted the Department of Agriculture and asked it to address the issue immediately.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment said: "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."