TDs from across the political spectrum have questioned the wisdom of capping or cutting the Irish suckler herd if it merely exports production to other parts of the world.

Matt Carthy, the Sinn Féin agriculture spokesperson, warned of this very scenario in an interview with the Irish Farmers Journal back in May.

“It’s not fair to simply say Ireland needs to reduce the amount of food it produces if the alternative is less sustainable food production,” he said, calling it “climate hypocrisy”.

“You can’t compare food production to coal or to other types of high-emissions manufacturing, because there are alternatives to them, but there’s no alternative to food yet,” he said.

Verona Murphy, the Wexford Independent TD was equally blunt in her assessment. “Ireland is one of the most efficient producers of beef in the world, but we are encouraged and incentivised through Government policy to outsource food production to countries where the production of beef results more in carbon emissions than it would in Ireland.

“This sort of behaviour may result in nice headline figures for Ireland’s emissions, but is actually detrimental to overall global emissions, while decimating Irish agriculture,” she said.

Bernard Durkan, the Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, said: “There is a real danger we end up replacing Irish food production with someplace with a much higher carbon footprint. The suckler herd in Ireland is in danger of being painted into a corner. The danger is we’ll feel we have done our bit, but it will have had the opposite effect, with an increase in global emissions.”