Former President under fire for stance on meat consumption

Former President Mary Robinson has come under fire after making comments in recent days in relation to the consumption of meat.

Robinson had called for people to consider making the switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet in order to reduce the impact of climate change and carbon footprint.

The Former President made the comments at the One Young World Summit in Ottawa, Canada earlier this week, where she urged people to “eat less meat or no meat at all.”

However, Robinson’s comments didn’t go unnoticed in Ireland and a number of people have questioned the reasoning behind her stance.

Independent Michael Fitzmaurice said Robinson’s comments were “one of the most bizarre statements” that he has heard anyone of influence make in a long time.

I am especially surprised that it is coming from a woman who comes from a county that is so reliant on agriculture.

“I wonder what plans would Mrs Robinson have for the tens of thousands of farmers that would be put out of business, or the tens of thousands of people who would become unemployed as a result of losing their jobs in the meat and food industries,” he said.

Fitzmaurice said it was ironic that these comments are coming from Robinson who has spent the last number of decades flying around the world putting up millions of air miles.

“What about her own carbon footprint?” he said.

The Independent TD also said that a realist debate on climate change is needed and the intervention by Robinson is not a help to this debate in any way.

IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney has also said that calls for developed nations to reduce meat consumption as a solution to addressing the international climate challenge ignores the reality that future demand for meat, and proteins generally, will be driven by developing countries.

Cooney said that aggregate meat consumption in developed countries grew by 1.3% in the last 10 years compared with 6.1% in developing countries.

He said Ireland and developed countries cannot ignore the climate challenge, and in fact thousands of farm families across Europe, particularly in Ireland, are global leaders in sustainable food production

“No other country in the world monitors, measures and manages carbon from farm to fork like Ireland does. Initiatives such as the IFA-led Smart Farming programme addresses the dual challenges of improving farm incomes while reducing environmental impacts.

“In addition, farmers participate in carbon audits, with over 70,000 farmers measuring carbon in programmes such as Bord Bia’s Quality Beef Assurance programme,” he said.

The President of the ICMSA John Comer also criticised Robinson’s comments.

Many thousands of Irish people who worked in the State’s beef and dairy sectors would be taken aback by the sheer disconnect demonstrated in her remarks, he said.

Comer said that Mrs Robinson must surely realise that the issue was much more complex than simply urging individuals to reduce their carbon footprint by becoming vegetarian or vegans.

He said that there were a several layers of environmental, agri-economic, socio-cultural and political considerations that had to be incorporated into any meaningful policy on climate change.