The eco-elites’ insane war on farming

Three cheers for the Irish farmers who’ve joined the revolt against Net Zero.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics Science & Tech World

Should we kill all cows? Amazingly, it’s a question the green elites are asking. ‘Cow burps’, with their methane, contribute 14.5 per cent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Cow dung releases ammonia, a nitrogen compound that damages natural habitats. From both their mouths and their behinds, cows cause pollution. So let’s cull them. Earlier this year, the Irish government proposed the slaughter of 200,000 cows to help it meet its climate targets. The Dutch government has flirted with the idea of reducing livestock numbers by 30 per cent to ‘reduce damaging ammonia pollution’. ‘Should we kill trillions of animals to save the planet?’, headlines ask.

So this is where environmentalism is at: slaughter the cows to save the planet. And you thought it was a happy-clappy, animal-loving ideology. ‘The complete eradication of cows and pigs… will eventually save the planet’, as one writer put it a few years ago. Of course, mad as our governments are, it’s unlikely they’ll take the stun gun to millions of cows anytime soon. And yet they are pursuing policies that will cause cow deaths. They have sworn themselves to climate targets that could lead to the decimation of livestock. They have, insanely, gone to war with farming. I’ve never been into animal rights, but I’m wondering if we need a ‘Save the Cows’ movement to counter the irrationalism of a political class that now puts eco-concerns ahead of everything, even food production.

Consider Ireland. The government is apparently not going to pursue the suggestion that it bump off 200,000 cows. It came from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. In order for Ireland to get closer to the Holy Grail of Net Zero emissions, we might have to kill 200,000 dairy cows at a cost of 600,000 Euros to taxpayers, a department document said. But it was only a ‘modelling’ scenario, not a ‘final policy decision’, officials insisted last month. Let’s leave to one side that it’s bizarre a Department of Agriculture was even talking about slaughtering thousands of cows, potentially devastating some farmers’ ability to make a living. More importantly, Ireland is already drafting policies that could have similar cow-obliterating consequences, only indirectly.

As part of its Climate Action Plan 2023, adopted under pressure from the eco-zealous European Union, Ireland has outlined how it intends to slash carbon emissions over the next decade. And given that agriculture accounts for around 33 per cent of Ireland’s greenhouse-gas emissions, it has found itself in officialdom’s crosshairs. The government is heaping pressure on farmers to cut their pesticide use, go more organic, and return some of the land they cultivate back to nature. One suggestion that’s really worrying Irish farmers is that they might have to slash the amount of nitrogen they use on their farmland from 250kg per hectare per year to 220kg per hectare per year. This would have a ‘catastrophic impact… on some dairy farms’, says the Irish Farmers Journal. Farmers would be forced to choose between obtaining more land, which is expensive, or cutting their cow numbers, which is undesirable. The end result, reports the Irish Examiner, is likely to be ‘a reduction in herd numbers’.

In short, cows will die, sacrificed at the altar of Net Zero. Ancient civilisations sacrificed animals to appease angry deities, to keep favour with the weather gods. Our civilisation sacrifices animals to try to placate vengeful Mother Earth who is apparently furious at our agricultural and industrial hubris. No wonder Irish farmers are up in arms. This weekend, in Cork, they took to the streets to express their ‘deep sense of frustration’. Thousands gathered, some on foot, others in tractors, to damn the subordination of their essential industry to weather-appeasing ‘climate targets’. We work long hours to make food for the people and yet we’re ‘vilified’, said Nigel Sweetnam of the Irish Farmers’ Association. Attendees held up placards saying: ‘Our Farms, Your Food.’

How extraordinary that farmers have to fight for the right to farm. That the people who make our food have to assemble to say: ‘Let us carry on making your food.’ It is a testament to the unreason of public life in the 2020s that the cultivation of land, breeding of livestock and production of dairy and meat – all things we once celebrated – are now ‘vilified’ as a pox on nature. The protesting Irish farmers are not only striking a blow against the Net Zero delusions of Dublin elites who’ve probably never set foot on a farm – they’re also standing up for reason and modernity. They are defending the view of agriculture as a force for good, a force for civilisation, against an establishment that is now so in thrall to the neo-religion of Net Zero that it sees every human interference in nature, even farming, as a wicked thing to be curtailed.

The Irish farmers take their place alongside other farmers in Europe who are in revolt against the eco-elites. Dutch farmers have been in a state of protest for almost four years, pushing back with all their might against climate targets that could lead to the closure of 3,000 farms and the slaughter of countless cows. German farmers are agitating against a new EU law calling for the restoration of natural habitats that they worry will eat into farmland, essentially returning their usefully cultivated land to the whims and wildness of Mother Nature. (Strikingly, in Strasbourg last week angry farmers clashed with Greta Thunberg and other young eco-upstarts who had gathered to support the EU’s anti-farming measures. Privileged youths whose only contribution to society is eco-piety vs farmers who make the stuff that keeps us alive? I know whose side I’m on.)

That law that German and other European farmers are ticked off about sums up how unhinged the new elites have become. It’s called the Nature Restoration Law. It was adopted by the European Parliament last Wednesday. The law sets binding targets for 20 per cent of the EU’s territory to be ‘restored to nature by 2030’. Critics insist it will hit farmers hard, encroaching on their land. It could lead to the ‘liquidation’ of millions of hectares of agricultural land, said Beata Szydło, the former prime minister of Poland, a nation that vociferously opposes the law. And of course, turning Europe into a big natural reserve for the likes of Greta to enjoy won’t do anything to dent global emissions anyway. Meat production will just be outsourced to other countries, like Brazil, potentially increasing the emissions involved in the creation and transportation of foodstuffs. It really is a kind of madness.

The name of that new law shows what’s at stake here. The elites’ hostility to farming and urge to ‘restore nature’ speaks to their turn against modernity itself. It isn’t the poor cows in the field that horrify them. It’s why those cows are there: to satisfy the desire of the teeming masses for meat, milk and leather. It is the agricultural industry’s taming of nature for the good of human beings that really offends them. In their eyes, farming is the theft of nature. Agriculture is ‘the number one threat to the planet’. Humanity is a ‘carbon footprint’.

We cannot let their hysteria stand. Human civilisation began with agriculture 12,000 years ago. Everything that makes us human – cities, culture, language – sprang from our discovery of farming. Make no mistake: their hatred for farming is a hatred for the human project itself.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics Science & Tech World


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