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The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has blasted an initiative calling on pupils to eat less meat and dairy in a bid to fight climate change.
The Green Schools program, which was created by Ireland’s National Trust An Taisce, aims to ‘bring climate action into the classroom providing schools with lesson plans; presentations; surveys and data, to learn and discuss, what is the biggest issue of our time’.
The program includes a resource pack which features dietary advice encouraging students to reduce their meat and dairy intake and looking at the greenhouse gas emissions of the agriculture industry.
According to the IFA, the program – which has been endorsed by the Minister for Communications Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton – is ‘positive’, but the dietary advice is ‘propaganda’. The IFA is demanding the resource pack is removed.
“This is beyond the remit of An Taisce and it not consistent with dietary advice given by the Department of Health, the competent authority, on balanced diets,” said IFA President Joe Healy.
“Farmers are extremely angry that packs like this would be distributed in schools advising students to consume less meat and dairy when both are an important part of a balanced diet.
“What our children are taught in school should be based on scientific findings proofed by the appropriate state agencies and Government Departments.”
Impact of eating meat and dairy
Multiple reports have suggested that a large-scale shift towards a plant-based diet is essential if we are to protect the environment. Last month the United Nations released its latest Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report.
The GEO report, which is published every five-seven years, was collated by 250 scientists and experts from more than 70 countries. It considers the environmental issues threatening the planet. These include climate change, wildlife loss, and plastic pollution among other issues.
According to the UN taxing meat could help people change their diets – essential as livestock farming, which uses 77 percent of global agricultural land, is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and the destruction of wildlife habitat. In addition, the report states that global food production must increase by 50 percent by 2050 to feed the world.
Humanity and the environment
“Reducing overall meat consumption as well as providing alternatives to conventional livestock production (eg through plant-based meat alternatives) would substantially reduce the agricultural land-use footprint,” said the report.
“The science is clear. The health and prosperity of humanity is directly tied with the state of our environment,” added Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment.
“This report is an outlook for humanity. We are at a crossroads. Do we continue on our current path, which will lead to a bleak future for humankind, or do we pivot to a more sustainable development pathway? That is the choice our political leaders must make, now.”