Recent remarks by environmental commentators that Ireland’s beef herd should be replaced with trees has been dismissed as “nonsense ideology that will increase international greenhouse gas emissions, wipe out the livelihoods of 95,000 beef farmers, and lead to thousands of job losses,” by Harold Kingston, the IFA’s Environment Chairman.

Kingston who is attending key climate change talks in Paris this week has said Ireland is a world leader in sustainable food production and this is independently verified by Carbon Trust UK, Bord Bia and Teagasc.

“It is unacceptable that these facts are ignored by environmental commentators, who would rather develop some nationally less environmentally sustainable policy of replacing beef with trees.

“Instead they must accept that Ireland, as a global leader in carbon efficient food production, can step up and ensure that the increasing global demand for food is produced in the most sustainable regions, such as Ireland.”

Kingston said, each year more than 95,000 farmers right across the country produce beef to the highest international environmental and animal welfare standards, which makes a substantial contribution to the €10.5 billion of agri-food exports each year.

“The ill-thought-out proposal to replace this high-value and sustainable beef production with forestry lacks environmental credibility and would result in severe job losses and damage to the rural economy.”

Kingston said there is increasing global demand for the protein-based foods produced by farmers in Ireland, and our grass-based production model ensures that beef and milk production is among the most carbon efficient in the world.

“Therefore, a proposal to get rid of beef production in Ireland would actually increase international greenhouse gas emissions as less sustainable regions such as South America would deforest vast areas of Amazonian rainforests to meet this demand.”

Kingston said it would be more pragmatic to work with IFA and support the Association’s call for the introduction of a national bioenergy and renewables plan and increasing forestry plantation where it makes economic, environmental and social sense.