The president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Joe Healy has said that the United Nations (UN) is “not wrong” to suggest a reduction in meat consumption. Healy responded to recent data that found Ireland has once again missed its target reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emissions from Ireland’s farmers rose by 1.9 percent in 2018. The EPA suggests that the most significant driver for this is an expansion in the number of dairy cows — part of a national policy to increase milk production in Ireland.
This expansion is in contrast to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPPC suggests that consumers emphasize plant-based foods. By avoiding meat and dairy, they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While Healey accepted that agriculture is the primary contributor to Ireland’s emissions, he suggested that the data take into account efficiency as well as overall emissions.
“Obviously agriculture will always be responsible for a large percentage (of emissions),” Healey said to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“But I think it’s probably not a proper measurement,” he added. “Irish dairy farmers are the most carbon-efficient producers of dairy products in Europe, and in the top five for beef production.”
Healey also emphasized the importance of animal agriculture to the national economy. He said that beef and dairy farming is the “largest indigenous industry” in Ireland. He was unable to provide information about when agricultural emissions would begin to fall. But he did agree that the industry “without a doubt” must continue to improve.
Cattle and Greenhouse Gas
The agriculture sector is the world’s largest producer of non-CO2 greenhouse gas. It generates more emissions than every mode of transportation combined. Greenhouse gas emissions are the driving force of global climate change.
Animal agriculture has a broad environmental impact through its production of animal methane, effluent waste, and fossil fuel usage. Beef production, in particular, has also been criticized for its inefficient consumption of both water and land – including drastic deforestation and clearing.
According to a study conducted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), a global shift away from meat and dairy — and towards plant-based alternatives — could reduce agriculture emissions by up to 50 percent by 2050.