'Reckless in the extreme': Taoiseach comments on meat eating slammed by farmers

Comments come as the beef sector is at crisis point

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carons/PA)
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar regarding consuming less meat to mitigate climate change has been described as “reckless in the extreme”.

That's according to Irish Cattle and Sheep Association president Patrick Kent who said Mr Varadkar would be better served putting his efforts in preventing vast quantities of inferior meat products entering the EU from the other side of the world.”

Mr Kent called upon Mr Varadkar to clarify that he wasn’t suggesting that people should eat less sustainably produced Irish beef and lamb.

“As one of the most important beef exporters in the northern hemisphere, it is very unfortunate indeed that our Taoiseach should be calling into question the sustainability of Irish beef production.”

“In 2018 agri-food sector exports amounted to €13.6bn with the value of meat and livestock exports comprising €3.97bn of that total. Surely the onus is on Mr Varadkar to protect such a vital industry; his cavalier comments however will do nothing but undermine it.”

The president of the IFA, Joe Healy has 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 had made his comments in response to a question as to what he was doing personally to reduce his own carbon footprint.

He said: “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.”

He also encouraged government ministers to choose a hybrid or electric vehicle when they are changing their cars.

His comments come as the beef sector is at crisis point due to the continuing slump in factory prices and the threat of a no-deal Brexit, farm leaders are warning.

Beef farmers will be directly in the firing line of a no-deal Brexit.

The Government will be looking for a "mega-money" aid package from the EU to offset the damage.

The pre-Christmas slump in cattle prices carried over into the new year, with factory quotes unchanged and farmers struggling to get stock killed.

Online Editors