Margaret Donnelly: ‘I won’t apologise for my burger – and nor should anybody else’
An Taisce has said it’s not going to apologise for promoting actions to help the environment. Well, I’m not going to apologise for eating a burger on a Monday.
In fact, I did so last week when I met a friend for dinner and he told me it’s only a matter of time before veganism is the norm. I disagreed and proceeded to order a (beef) burger. So did he and we agreed that neither of us would be turning vegan anytime soon.
What I choose to eat is my decision and should remain so. If Irish schools want to set an agenda on what children do and don’t eat, let them tackle the far more pressing issues of obesity and food waste.
Is my choice to eat Irish meat really doing more damage to the climate than another’s preference for avocados, the superfood that racks up thousands of air miles when flown in from South America?
Unfortunately, An Taisce has taken upon itself to tell teachers to encourage children in their classrooms to eat less meat and dairy.
Just weeks after the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was looking to cut back on his meat consumption, An Taisce has produced a teacher resource pack calling on children to be encouraged to eat less meat and dairy and run Meatless Mondays in their schools.
Really? With a quarter of children now officially obese, a crackdown on poor dietary habits and increasing exercise might be of more use to the wider economy than sending children home to their parents calling a halt to eating meat on a Monday.
I’d like to see the reaction of the country’s 120,000 farmers when children arrive home pronouncing they are going to eat less meat and dairy to help stop climate change: “Hey, mum and dad, I don’t really care that you’re beef farmers, but I won’t be eating meat on Mondays and I’m telling my friends to reduce the amount of meat they eat too.”
Yes, agriculture contributes to global emissions, and a significant amount in Ireland because we as a nation are heavily reliant on the sector. But it’s not just meat that’s the problem. Rice farming is a significant contributor to climate change too!
Yes, our sector needs to become more efficient at producing food in as environmentally friendly a manner as possible, but as consumers we also need do more to reduce our food waste or our food miles.
But let’s not forget that agriculture is at the core of our economy, especially our rural economy, and our production systems for meat and dairy are predominately grass based – which is one of the most environmentally sustainable production systems.
Farmers have every right to be irate if our schools are encouraging children to eat less meat. It’s just the latest in a number of direct attacks on the sector and one that will have very little positive impact on climate change efforts.