Irish farmers are doing more for climate change than other countries, the head of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has said.
Joe Healy was responding to calls from the Green Party for a cull of the national herd to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr Healy told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the size of national herd is a myth and that Ireland is one of the most carbon-efficient producers of beef in Europe.
The national herd is now lower than it was in 1998, he said.
“We have less than seven million head of cattle, take the likes of Brazil for example, they have 230 million head of cattle.
“If we reduce the size of the national herd here all we do is allow countries that are much less carbon efficient than Irish farmers are to fill that gap and produce the meat that will be required and that is required on the global markets for meat or dairy products.
“The European Commission joint research centre has highlighted very clearly that Ireland is the most carbon efficient producer of dairy product in Europe and in the top five most carbon efficient producers of beef in Europe,” added Mr Healy.
The IFA president warned that demand for beef will grow by 17% between now and 2027.
“If that beef is not produced in what is acknowledged as a carbon producer of beef it will be done by countries that are that are a lot less efficient.
“Climate change is not just an Irish issue. It's a global issue. Since 1990 we have increased our agricultural output by 40% and in that time we've done that by not increasing our carbon emissions.
“We now have a road map, we're one of the very few sectors that has a road map to follow, that's the Teagasc climate abatement plan and what we need is to ensure is that there's government support, that the infrastructure is in place to allow farmers to achieve the targets that are there and that the potential that can be achieved.”