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The return of animal sacrifice

Net Zero is a neo-pagan religion that is seriously harming people’s liberties and livelihoods.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics Science & Tech World

We look back with bewilderment at the ritual sacrifice of animals by our ancestors. Whether it was the Celtic people’s sacrifice of livestock to appease pissed-off deities or the Ancient Romans’ slaughter of oxen so that Jupiter might be more sparing with his stormy weather, it was all a bit mad. We would never be so superstitious, we tell ourselves. I’m not sure that’s true. Consider the proposed slaughter of hundreds of thousands of cattle in Europe in the holy name of Net Zero. This is the return of pagan lunacy, surely.

Irish farmers are under pressure to ‘cull up to 200,000 cows’ in order that Ireland might meet its ‘climate goals’, reported the Financial Times at the weekend. The Irish government is considering proposals to bump off that amount of cattle over the next three years to help it achieve a 25 per cent reduction in its agricultural emissions. Cows produce methane, you see, and methane is bad. It’s a greenhouse gas. Farming accounts for 40 per cent of Ireland’s greenhouse-gas emissions, so it has become a natural target for the Net Zero zealots. Every EU member state is under pressure to make strides towards Net Zero, and if that entails the sacrifice of livestock, so be it. Save the planet, slaughter the cows.

It’s so superstitious. A ‘mooted cow massacre’ to try to offset the angry climatic conditions apparently caused by man? If someone can explain how this is any different to an ancient people’s ritualistic killing of a poor bull in a desperate bid to placate the weather gods, I’d be most grateful. In fact, if anything, the proposed cow-culling in Ireland is worse than the paganistic antics of our ill-educated forebears. At least they were wise enough to offer up only one or two beasts to the gods of thunder – the neo-pagans of the Net Zero cult are offering up whole herds to try to assuage the heatwaves and floods they think furious Mother Earth has in store for us.

And they seem to care little for the consequences of their heathen carbon-offsetting. Irish farmers are seriously worried for their livelihoods. The dairy industry is worth €13 billion a year to the Irish economy. It provides 54,000 jobs. It brought in a staggering €6.8 billion in exports in 2022 alone. What will become of all this fruitful work if cow slaughter in the name of Net Zero takes off? We’re portrayed as ‘climate killers’, complains one Irish farmer. Indeed, eco-activists marched in Dublin with banners saying ‘Meat + dairy = climate crisis’ – a perfect snapshot of out how out-of-touch the urban elites are, who probably never give a second thought to the question of who produced the luscious cream that appears atop the €20 pancakes they scoff for Sunday brunch in a hip Dublin eatery.

The other likely consequence of Ireland’s ‘mooted cow massacre’ would be more global emissions. Ireland’s brilliant dairy farmers supply 130 markets around the world. Where will those nations source the milk, butter and cheese they need if not from the Irish Republic? Probably from countries ‘with worse green credentials than Ireland’, Irish farmers say. They’re right. Forty-three per cent of Ireland’s beef goes to the UK. Remember that next time you’re tucking into a delicious, moist burger: it was probably made by one of those ‘climate killers’ across the Irish Sea. Where will Brits get their beef if the Irish elite’s cow-killing frenzy really spins out of control? New Zealand? The air miles involved in such a long-distance meaty relationship would make the farting cows of our neighbouring nation seem perfectly eco-friendly in comparison.

So this is the double impact of the neo-paganism of Net Zero, of today’s irrational dread of weather that comes dressed in the garb of scientific revelation: we undermine domestic production while potentially increasing global emissions. It’s lose-lose. And it isn’t only in Ireland that anti-farming hysteria has taken hold. Dutch farmers have been protesting for four years over their government’s determination to slash nitrogen emissions in half by 2030, which could lead to the closure of 3,000 farms. That is, to fewer cows, and fewer jobs. This week, Australian farmers joined the growing workers’ revolt against the Net Zero ideology. They drove their tractors around the parliament in Victoria to protest a new ‘renewables’ policy that they believe will intrude on their land and limit their ability to farm.

Surely nothing better sums up the irrationalism of the 21st century’s eco-elites than their cavalier attitude to the rights and happiness of the people who make our food. Ritual sacrifice to mollify the heavens is once again all the rage among the rulers of Earth. Sacrifice not only of animals this time, but also of livelihoods and even liberty. Dairy farming, food production, pesticide-use, cheap flights, our right to drive – all are being offered up at the apologetic altar of Net Zero. ‘Forgive us our hubris’, cry the elites as they sacrifice, one by one, the things that make life good and tasty. It is time for a rational pushback, surely, against this modern paganism.

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

Michael Shellenberger and Brendan O'Neill – live and in conversation

Michael Shellenberger and Brendan O'Neill – live and in conversation

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Topics Politics Science & Tech World

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