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It’s unlikely that you’ll ever hear a representative of the dairy industry state that the industry produces too many male calves (750,000 a year, based on the current size of the national herd). Or that their 1.5m cows are emitting an unsustainably large volume of methane every single day.

To the male-calf problem, the industry’s solution appears to be: first, let’s find export markets for them, second, let’s try to flog them into the beef sector at a yellow-pack price, and thirdly, let’s slaughter the left overs. (Sadly, there is a fourth solution, implemented by some unethical, or desperate, farmers: shoot them and dump them illegally, their ear tags cut off).

To the second problem, the industry’s response appears to be: aw shucks, we’re a small island and our carbon footprint is tiny, so what’s the problem?

What industry proceeds with a growth plan that, in its implementation, creates such a massive problem, with no sustainable solution considered? No industry with so little regard for its moral, ecological and societal obligations can survive and the dairy industry is no exception.

Apart from the obvious animal rights and welfare issues, there is the massive environmental cost of dairy. Approximately 99% of ammonia emissions and 50% of non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions emanate from agriculture. The intensification of dairy production, with a 41% increase in dairy cow numbers to almost 1.5 million cows in the last 10 years, has been clearly identified as the primary driver of this increased water pollution, biodiversity loss and rapidly rising GHG and ammonia emissions, violating EU limits and the Paris Agreement alignment agreed to by Ireland.

The dairy industry has given two fingers to the challenge of our time, that of climate change. It clearly believes it has zero obligations beyond growing exponentially an unsustainable industry. Furthermore, it turns a blind eye to the immoral and totally unacceptable live-export and day-old slaughter ‘solutions’ to the male calf problem. Meanwhile, it continues to spend large amounts of money on promoting a highly-spun image of an industry that is welfare and climate friendly. They’d be better advised to spend the money on fixing what has become an utterly dysfunctional industry, with the animals paying the price as always.

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