“EPA should be ashamed of itself for deleting red meat tweet”

Sep 20, 2023

The Environmental Protection Agency should be ashamed of itself for deleting its tweet on red meat.

An independent assessment was commissioned by Friends of the Earth in September 2023 on Ireland’s recent ecological record. The experts gave the Irish government a C+ for moderate success in dealing with climate change.[1]

They gave a mere 4 out of 10 for the Irish government’s efforts to deal with climate change, especially in forestry and agriculture. They considered that the Irish government was flirting with failure in this section, even though the Irish government ambitions was merely only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in agriculture. [2]

In late August 2023, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) posted a tweet. It called on people not to waste food, pointing out that 10 percent of the meat we buy is thrown out. It also suggested that people eat less red meat and that they experiment with vegetable recipes, and, even to opt for a meat free Monday. [3]

What happened next was extraordinary. The two major farming organisations, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Irish Cattle and Sheep and Farmers’ Association (ICSA) took a very critical stance against the tweet. A senior executive of the IFA said that the tweet “had caused considerable anger among farmers who feel it goes beyond the remit of the EPA and is not consistent with Government dietary guidelines.”[4]

The ICSA spokesperson “asked the EPA to clarify what is called “political campaigning against meat.”[5]

As a result of this lobbing, the EPA removed the offensive tweet. It representative said that tweet was not “intended to cause “anger” or confusion.”[6] Mick Clifford of The Irish Examiner condemned this “supine capitulation to a vested interest that believes that it and it alone should dictate policy in one of the biggest challenges facing humankind today.”[7]

Many people might think that the Irish government supports plant-based agriculture rather than the livestock industry. The truth is the opposite according to Damien Carrington writing in the Irish Examiner. Any “analysis of lobbying subsidies and regulations shows that the livestock farmers” in the EU “receive 1,200 times more public funding than plant-based food.” [8]

In the United States “the animal farmers receive 800 times more public funding”[9] even though reducing red meat production is vital to tackling climate change. Today livestock farming is responsible for creating 15% of all greenhouse gases.[10]

Reducing the consumption of red meat is also good for our health. In 2021, “the European Society of Cardiology recommended that red meat should be reduced to a maximum of 350-500g per week.[11]”.

Finally, the current livestock agriculture is destroying biodiversity globally. “More than 800 million trees have been cut down in the Amazon rainforest in just six years to feed the world’s appetite for Brazilian beef despite dire warnings about the forest’s importance in fighting the climate crisis.”

The action of the EPA reminds me of the storm of protest that greeted the first book of the modern environment movement – Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962. Though Carson spent five years researching  the book, the agricultural-chemical industry savagely attacked the book calling it “hogwash.” Industry conferences bemoaned the crass assumptions and distortions of the book. Time Magazine worried about Ms Carson’s “emotional and inaccurate outbursts.”

It is shocking to see an independent government institute like the EPA whose decisions are grounded on science giving in to important vested interest groups in society.

Fr Sean McDonagh

Columban missionary Fr Sean McDonagh is President of An Taisce. Ordained in 1969, he worked in Mindanao in the Philippines amongst the T’boli indigenous people near Lake Sebu where he witnessed first-hand the destruction of the local forests. His most recent publication is ‘Robots, Ethics and the Future of Jobs’ published by Messenger Publications: https://www.messenger.ie/product/robots-ethics-and-the-future-of-jobs/

[1]  George Lee,” Govt given C  plus  given on delivering climate commitments by experts, “ September 4th 2023. https://www.rte,ie/ 2023/0904/1403226-envirornment.
[2]  Padraig Hoare, Government ‘flirting with failure in eco efforts, The Irish Examiner, September 4th, 2023, Page 5.
[3]  Sylvia Thompson, “The Deleted Tweet About Meat,” The Irish Times, September 2nd, 2023, page 2.
[4]  Sylvia Thompson, “The Deleted Tweet about Meat, The Irish Times, September 2nd, 2023, page 2.
[5] Ibid.
[6]  Mick Clifford, “Faux outrage ignores what is at stake,” The Irish Examiner, September 2nd, 2023, page 17.
[7] Ibid.
[8]  Damien Carrington, ”Gigantic’ power of meat industry blocking green   alternatives,” The Irish Examiner, 19th of August 2023, page 10.
[9]  Ibid.
[10] Andrew Wasley, Elisangela Mendonca, Youssr Youssef and Robert Soutar, “Amazon Rainforest, More than 800m trees have been felled in six years to keep up with global beef demand, “ The Guardian,  June 3rd 2023, page 10.
[11] Ibid

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