Irish farmers push back on EU proposal to cull cows to meet climate goals

The Irish Department of Agriculture is considering slaughtering 65,000 cows a year for three years, according to a report by the British newspaper The Telegraph. It’s part of a larger plan developed by the United Nations to cut a quarter of all farming emissions by 2030.

Some of Brad's highland cattle.

Irish farmers are pushing back against a government proposal to cull cattle in an effort to meet European Union climate goals.

British newspaper The Telegraph originally reported the story, which claimed the Irish Department of Agriculture is considering slaughtering 65,000 cows a year for three years. It’s part of a larger plan within the EU to reduce farming emissions by 25 percent before the end of the decade.

“We’re the one industry with a significant road map, and, to be quite honest with you, our herd isn’t any larger than it was 25 to 30 years ago,” Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, told The Telegraph. “Can the same be said for the transport industry, can the same be said for the aviation industry?”

“Reports like this only serve to further fuel the view that the government is working behind the scenes to undermine our dairy and livestock sectors,” said Tim Cullinan, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association. He told The Telegraph the plan would do nothing more than simply shift beef production out of Ireland. “While there may well be some farmers who wish to exit the sector, we should all be focusing on providing a pathway for the next generation to get into farming.”

According to The Telegraph report, the proposal, which is not a formal policy, would be voluntary for farmers on the cusp of retiring. It would reduce Ireland’s herd by 10 percent.

A 2021 report on stated Ireland relies heavily on agriculture, specifically dairy, to strengthen its economy. Back then, the topic of carbon emissions was just starting to circulate throughout the country. One dairy farmer said he wasn’t worried about it because there are huge swathes of land in Ireland that absorb carbon. He said he has more trees on his farm than cows.

There is also growing evidence supporting the use of seaweed in cattle feed as a way to reduce carbon emissions that could reduce the need to cull herds in order to meet world climate goals.

The agriculture industry and some Irish politicians have publicly stated a proposal to slaughter cows would end in disaster, according to The Telegraph report.


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