In response to recent claims that consumers are “shifting away from meat” the general secretary of a drystock farm lobby group did not hold back in his defence of the Irish meat industry.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) general secretary, Eddie Punch, was responding to an interviewer on RTE Radio 1, when he warned: “There’s a lot of money being invested by multi-billion dollar corporations in trying to get people to eat fake meat alternatives.”

Speaking to Miriam O’ Callaghan, Punch outlined: “At the moment, in one of the retailers in Ireland, you can spend €7 buying vegan burgers but – when you look at it – how sustainable are these alternatives?” Punch asked rhetorically.

“There’s 23 different plant-based ingredients which are flown all the way from the US and are then assembled in the UK.

After this, they are then sold to consumers in Ireland as an alternative to buying sustainable beef that’s produced by Irish farmers. How mad is that from the point of view of climate change?

Continuing, Punch added: “Let’s talk about the school initiative. I think it’s really appalling that we’re giving kids a complex that somehow they should be ashamed of eating cheese or eating meat.

“We all know that where we have kids, the big issue is to get them to eat anything nutritious and trying to steer them away from sugary drinks and sweet treats.

I think from an Irish point of view, there is no argument that it’s a more sustainable idea to import plant-based burgers from the US where they use lots of pesticides and GM technologies to grow their crops.

“What really concerns me about this is that the outcome is to shame people into eating less meat and undermine the viability of livestock producers in Ireland, because they’re on wafer-thin margins anyway.

“The vegan ideology is driving people to think that climate change is all about meat consumption when actually its about big business, fossil fuel usage and unsustainable ultra processed diets.

“Eat beef, eat dairy and feel happy to do so,” Punch concluded.