Is abstaining from eating meat on Mondays a mortal sin?
Yes it is, if you follow the church of the Irish Farmers’ Association.
The Environmental Educational Unit of An Taisce (The National Trust for Ireland) runs a Green Schools Programme, which is part of an international movement known as Eco Schools. Green-Schools is an environmental education programme, environmental management system and award scheme that promotes whole school action towards a sustainable environment through the implementation of a Seven Step methodology. Green Schools, working with primary and secondary schools, is a long-standing, widely respected, and hugely successful programme. It also operates a Green Campus programme for colleges.
Recently it published its latest resource for teachers: a range of lesson plans, presentations, surveys and data on climate change and actions. Unfortunately it had the audacity to include one climate change action that explored the option of reducing meat and dairy consumption in schools, and it suggested that schools could include vegetarian or vegan potluck tasters or a #Meatless Monday campaign.
The suggestion raised the wrath of the church of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), guardians of meat in Ireland. The IFA demanded that An Taisce withdraw the teacher resource pack including the suggestion of a possible meatless Monday. It further demanded that An Taisce’s involvement in the Green Schools Programme should be “reviewed” by the Department of Education and Science, claiming An Taisce was wrongfully giving out dietary/health advice.
First, the Greens School Programme is operated by the Environmental Education Unit, which was established in 1993 to ensure environmental education was a priority for the trust and to build on previous education initiatives and projects. The Unit operates the Green Schools Programme and any complaints would seem more appropriately directed there. But of course the IFA must believe it resonates politically to attack An Taisce rather than Green Schools.
Second, the health risks from eating meat and dairy products are hardly contested by the health community. The IFA attack on such a notion is like the tobacco industry denying the risks of smoking, and aggressively attacking anyone who would dare to oppose smoking in schools.
The drinks industry has enough sense not to attack anyone who promotes moderation in drinking. Indeed, the industry conducts public relation campaigns to warn the public against drinking too much alcohol: “Drink in moderation” or “Drink responsibly.” Just imagine the public uproar if the drinks industry aggressively attacked a civic organization for suggesting that drinking and driving might not be a good idea. And how sensible would it be for the drinks industry to demand the government investigate an organization for supporting not drinking and driving.
Besides the obvious health benefits from a balanced diet (which means less meat than is now consumed by almost every society), the adverse environmental effects from raising beef cows and processing meat is clear. Ireland is a laggard in large part because it is failing to meet its EU obligations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That failure is driven in significant part because of the methane emissions from the agriculture sector that continues to expand.
We do not recall the IFA taking similar umbrage with the Catholic Church’s promotion of meatless Fridays. Somehow for the IFA not eating meat on Mondays is sacrilegious, while not eating meat on Fridays, or at least certain Fridays, is presumably pious.
The IFA has now been joined by a separate congregation, the Young Fine Gael, which has joined the chorus of castigating An Taisce for trying to combat climate change by advocating less meat in diets.
Is this the future of our youth? Lucky for us we have the Greens Schools Programme instilling sound, reasoned, responsible actions to fight climate change. Fine Gael will have to answer for its own children.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton, did not take the bait from the IFA and instead defended the Green schools advice to reduce the amount of meat children eat. And An Taisce is in the good company of former President Mary Robinson who was attacked by the IFA for suggesting that eating less meat and more vegetables might be good for the planet. As well as for our individual health.
At the end of the day, the IFA and Young Fine Gael embarrassed themselves.
Irish Farmers’ Association, AN TAISCE GREEN SCHOOLS PACK SHOULD BE WITHDRAWN IMMEDIATELY bit.ly/2XuiTxm
See “Meatless Mondays” in iePEDIA section of the current (May 2019) issue of irish environment.
“’We shouldn’t be defensive about debate led by young people’: Bruton defends stance on ‘Meatless Monday’ teaching pack,” The Journal (5 April 2019). bit.ly/2Vj5udZ
“Mary Robinson suggested that eating vegetables instead of meat might be good for the planet: The farming lobby busted an artery in response. They could have saved their artery by eating less meat and more vegetables.” ieBLOG in irish environment (1 Nov 2016). bit.ly/2RS32qa