Coveney defends Varadkar but says he won't cut back on eating meat himself
TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney has not decided to eat less meat in a bid to cut his own carbon footprint.
His remarks come after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sparked anger among farming organisations and rural TDs after he said he is trying to eat less meat for two reasons - health and climate change.
Mr Coveney defended Mr Varadkar but also said he doesn't intend to cut back on meat himself.
He argued that a lot has been read into Mr Varadkar's comments that is not fair.
Mr Coveney said that the Government should be judged on how it responds to farmers and "helped to build and protect an agri-food industry which has grown massively through the recessionary period".
He said he is proud of the Government's record and said it will "continue to protect the food industry and farming and farm families and rural communities through Brexit and through any other challenges that we face".
Asked by presenter Jonathan Healy if he has decided to eat less meat as well, Mr Coveney replied: "No, I haven't.
"I believe that Ireland produces meat and dairy product to a very high standard and actually in relative terms to a very low carbon intensity."
He also told farmers "as a person who supports them" there is an obligation to "continue to do more to be an example to the rest of the world as to how you produce food at a very low carbon footprint".
On Tuesday, Mr Varadkar responded to Dáil claims that his remarks were "flippant" and "hurtful" to farmers.
"I didn't give anybody dietary advice or suggest that anyone do anything," he said.
"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.
"I had a very nice Hereford steak last night," he added.
"It's not flippant.
"It is a fact that red meat increases instance of cancer and also contributes more to climate change."