Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Ireland Considers Spending €600 Million to Cull 200,000 Cows for Climate Change

Although the Irish dairy and beef herd amounts to 2.5 million cows, reductions are a sensitive subject after the government recommended dairy farmers expand in 2015 following the expiration of EU milk quotas.
Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: June 2, 2023
A document showed the government of Ireland wanted to slaughter 200,000 cows for climate change.
A file photo of Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, during a visit to a livestock industry research center in Ireland in March of 2020. A freedom of information document showed the Irish government modeling spending €600 million over 3 years to slaughter 200,000 cows for carbon climate targets. (Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

A plan by the Irish government to cull 200,000 cows at a cost of €600 million over the next three years in order to meet carbon climate narrative targets made headlines in European media.

May 29 reporting by the Ireland-based outlet Independent stated on May 29 that the government would need to kill off 65,000 cows over the next three years at a cost of €200 million annually in order to make farmers meet carbon targets.

The report is based on a Department of Agriculture document the outlet says it viewed in response to a freedom of information query.

It contrasts statements made at the end of 2022 by Charlie McConalogue, Minister of Agriculture, who assured the Irish farming industry that killing cows would not be required even as the government signed the Climate Action Plan for 2023 plan, Irish website Buzz reported in December.


“All measures will be voluntary and aimed at supporting our farmers to continue to produce world-class food while also diversifying income streams through tillage, energy generation and forestry,” the Minister was quoted as stating.

An August 2022 article by EuroNews on the potential slaughter states that, “In Ireland, cattle outnumber people and agriculture accounts for over 37 per cent of CO2 emissions. Ireland also has the highest methane emissions per capita of all EU member states, with much of this due to beef production.”

EuroNews adds that Irish farmers are even more upset after ramping dairy production in 2015 in response to “government advice” after European Union milk quotas expired.

“After more than 30 years of being constrained by milk production caps, the policy change led to increased output by Irish dairy farmers, who invested heavily in expansion,” the article reads.

According to the Independent’s article, the hefty annual budget would be spent on compensating farmers who voluntarily cull their herd, a similar tactic used in the Netherlands with farmers receiving compensation for voluntarily surrendering their operations and homesteads in a land appropriation scheme.

According to a May 30 article by Buzz, the Agriculture Department was in damage control, stating that the document citing the figure was merely “part of a deliberative process,” framing it as “one of a number of modelling documents” rather than a “final policy decision.”

The article adds that the dairy cow herd increased by 23,000 in 2022, a figure that was offset by a decline in the beef herd by slightly over 27,000. 

Combined, the two sectors flock a little over 2.5 million cows among the country’s 5 million human population.

Buzz stated that a climate activist group had sirened that the government has an “urgent need to address the negative environmental impacts associated with dairy expansion” with the issuance of an anti-industry report last October.

Over in England, The Telegraph took advantage of the reports to publish a June 2 op-ed titled Ireland’s Mooted Cow Massacre Is a Warning To Net Zero Britain.

“British beef and dairy farmers are now very jittery. It seems increasingly clear that there is an eco-modernist agenda to do away with conventional meat altogether,” author Jamie Blackett stated, adding, “It’s not just the Extinction Rebellion mob, either; many of the world’s politicians are on board.”

Blackett has a point. Earlier in the year, the Arup Group in conjunction with the C40 Cities mayor consortium, both World Economic Forum-associated entities, and the UK’s Leeds University, published a 68-page missive declaring the wish to dramatically change the human living condition in urban metropolises under the umbrella of fighting climate change.

One of the primary changes the document pushed was an “ambitious” target of completely eliminating meat and dairy consumption within cities by 2030.

The push is joined by a wish to also completely eliminate personal vehicles, restrict clothing purchases, and centrally mandate air travel quotas.

Blackett added, “It’s very fortunate we’re out of the EU or we could be facing the same pressure from Brussels. Now, we can only hope that Rishi Sunak, who represents a heavily rural constituency in the Yorkshire Dales, understands what’s at stake for farming communities.”

In response to the document, Irish dairy industry lobbyists say they want to participate in the “environmental journey” ahead, especially if the culling is on a voluntary basis.

Irish Times quoted Pat McCormack, head of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association stating that, “We should be investing in an infrastructure that can deliver from a scientific perspective. And we know low emissions are better and we should be continuing to invest in further science and research because that’s absolutely critical as we move forward.”

The official narrative against cows is that their flatulence emits carbon dioxide.

Yet more grassroots farming associations more strongly oppose the notion all together.

Website Farming Life quoted Macra na Feirme national branch President Elaine Houlihan as stating that “this type of a reductionist strategy is flawed.”

“We need a pathway forward for future food producers, not a culling strategy, otherwise we will end up with a deficit of young people willing to enter agriculture to produce the world class food and proteins in the most environmentally sustainable manner,” Houlihan added.

Macra na Feirme is something of the Irish equivalent of North America’s 4H Club.

Houlihan is primarily concerned that the existing political topography will lead to the current and next generation not entering the industry, leading to a farmer shortage.

“Has anyone taken a step back and seriously looked at what signals these reports focusing on culling send to young farmers considering entering a sector. Is Ireland and Europe serious about Generational Renewal? The stark fact remains that more farmers are over 65 than under 35,” she asked.

The President stated, “Research concludes that farmer characteristics including age and innovativeness of the farmer impact the decision to adopt smart farming or precision agriculture technologies that reduce climate emissions.” 

Houlihan added, “Now is the time to invest in young farmers to deliver on climate targets and shred reports that call for culling.”