The Irish Farmers’ Association has called for guidelines from An Taisce, which promote less meat and dairy consumption by pupils in the name of environmental protection, to be revoked.
According to the IFA, the new green schools’ teacher resource pack should be “withdrawn immediately”.
The Green Schools Initiative is overseen by An Taisce and is Ireland’s leading environmental management and education programme for schools.
President of the IFA, Joe Healy, said the resource pack promotes veganism and should be withdrawn.
“The appropriateness of An Taisce’s involvement in the Green Schools programme should also be reviewed by the Department of Education and Science,” he said.
Healy said that the Green Schools Initiative was a positive programme but that An Taisce had operated beyond their authority by including dietary advice in their resource pack.
“This is beyond the remit of An Taisce and is not consistent with dietary advice given by the Department of Health, the competent authority, on balanced diets,” he said.
“Farmers are extremely angry that packs like this would be distributed in schools advising students to consume less meat and dairy when both are an important part of a balanced diet.
“What our children are taught in school should be based on scientific findings proofed by the appropriate state agencies and Government departments,” he said.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, announced that the Climate Action Teacher Resource would be available to all post-primary schools from March 27th.
When announcing the programme, Bruton said it would be an opportunity to “bring climate action into the classroom”, by providing schools with lesson plans, presentations, surveys and data, to learn and discuss climate change.
“This is an area where we need to step up our response. Young people have shown their interest and their passion,” he said. “We need to make sure that the curriculum is there so that they can learn in a more structured way.”
The spokesperson for An Taisce, John Gibbons, said that the reaction from the IFA was “hysterical.” He argued that the IFA only had an interest in representing the interests of dairy and meat farmers and overlooked the interests of farmers involved in horticulture, tillage and organic farming.
The pack, which is available to download online, encourages teachers to measure perceptions of climate change by asking students if they can reduce their carbon footprint by actively eating less meat and dairy products.
It also suggests that students should prepare an engaging presentation or speech which would inform their peers of the carbon footprint and environmental impact of the meat and dairy industry in Ireland.
A vegetarian and vegan potluck taster is encouraged where “everyone brings in one dish to share and swaps recipes.”
The pack also promotes the idea of running a “#MeatlessMonday” campaign to “give people ideas and recipes for healthy alternatives to meat and dairy products”.
The HSE encourages the consumption of lean meat and poultry but suggests beans and nuts as suitable alternatives if one chooses to have ‘meat-free’ days.
According to research led by Marco Springmann at the University of Oxford, consumption of meat needs to be reduced by as much as 90 per cent to avoid an irreversible climate breakdown.
The Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Teagasc, says that agriculture accounts for 85 per cent of methane emissions in Ireland, due to the dominance of cattle and sheep livestock production in Irish agricultural output.
The main impact of methane on a global scale is as a greenhouse gas. With a “global warming potential” 21 times that of carbon dioxide, it is ranked amongst the worst greenhouse gases.
Author: Ryan Carrick.
Image Credit: Melissa Peterson