'If you choose a vegan meal instead of beef you are damaging rural Ireland'- ICSA's Punch tells vegan activist

Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Every time a person chooses a vegan meal instead of a beef one they are damaging rural Ireland ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch has warned.

Mr Punch was speaking in reaction to claims made by Juliet Gellatley of the Vegan Charity on RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke Show who said that eating meat in some forms may have to be made illegal in order to save the planet.

“There have been many scientific reports that the main driver of the loss of species worldwide is animal agriculture and we cannot afford such a stupendously inefficient system to produce protein on scale,” claimed Ms Gellatley.

“Our patron Michael Mansfield has said that perhaps eating meat in some form will have to be made illegal perhaps in the same way that smoking in public is which would’ve been unheard of a few years ago and now it is illegal. People accept it for the sake of the planet as a whole.”

However, Mr Punch warned that consumers should be “very slow to listen to extreme vegan ideology”.

“If we go for a 100pc plant-based diet, we are saying goodbye to organic farming because we have no animal manures,” said Mr Punch

“Every time you go for a vegan dinner instead of beef you’re damaging rural Ireland and rural communities. If you are now choosing a beyond beef burger which contains 27 ingredients, where are these ingredients coming from? They’re not ingredients your mother would use when she’s cooking the Sunday lunch.

Ms Gellatley argued that 100-200 times more land is used for beef compared to pulses used to make plant-based foods.

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“There is not enough land in the world to feed the amount of people there are on a meat centred diet. Ireland is in a biodiversity crisis and at the centre of that is beef and dairy farming. We have to throw our hands up; we got this wrong. Growing monocultures of grass is incredibly damaging for the environment.”

Mr Punch pointed out though that almond milk produced in California uses 10pc of the water supply there in a region where water is already ‘scarce’.

“We’re being asked to import that water from California instead of drinking natural dairy milk by producing grass here. If we go vegan we are basically saying import food from South America, quinoa, tofu and all this kind of stuff. Farmers in Ireland are the vanguard of climate change and animal welfare.”

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