Irish beef farmers must not be sacrificed in the name of climate change while beef output in countries such as Brazil expands at breakneck speed, Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice has insisted.

Deputy Fitzmaurice said a cull in Irish beef cow numbers cannot be countenanced at a time when massive growth in Brazilian cattle numbers was being facilitated by increased deforestation in the Amazon region.

“A cull in beef cow numbers will not be tolerated by the farming community and rural Ireland, no way,” Fitzmaurice maintained.

The Irish Farmers Journal exclusively reported this week how Brazil’s national herd is forecast to grow by close to 24 million head by 2030, with beef output set to rise by more than 10% to 3m tonnes.

This expansion has taken place against a background of increased deforestation in the Amazon.

Deforestation hit a 12-year high in 2020, when an area equivalent to that of counties Galway and Mayo was stripped of trees.

It has increased by a further 8% this year, with over 5,000km2 cleared between January and July.

National targets

Fitzmaurice said the actions of Brazil highlighted the inherent weakness of setting national targets for carbon emissions from food production.

“The fact that Brazil is continuing to destroy the Amazon forests, which are effectively the lungs of the planet, in order to expand cattle numbers calls into question the Irish and European agenda on carbon emissions and climate change,” Fitzmaurice pointed out.

Europe does not seem to care about carbon leakage

“Europe does not seem to care about carbon leakage or about the fact that if we cut beef output within the EU. All we are doing is moving the CO2 emissions to South America or somewhere else. Do they not realise that we all breathe the same air,” he said.

“It’s a box-ticking exercise the whole time in relation to climate change,” he added.

According to the UN, the average greenhouse gas footprint of beef produced in western Europe is 2.5 times less than the global average and three times less than beef produced in Latin American countries such as Brazil.

“If we are best in class at producing beef, sheepmeat or dairy, then why not let Ireland produce those commodities and cut back in other sectors?” the Independent TD asked.

Deputy Fitzmaurice said Brazil should face “financial repercussions” from the international community for its actions in the Amazon, and that Ireland should also refuse to ratify the proposed trade deal between the EU and Mercosur.

“If Dáil deputies are serious about protecting the global environment, and Irish beef farmers, then there is an onus on every TD to vote against the Mercosur deal when it comes back before the house,” he maintained.

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