dairy farmer ireland
© Getty INUTAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesmagesA dairy farmer tends to his herd on the Beara peninsula in West Cork
Irish farmers are rebelling against a proposal to cull tens of thousands of cattle a year to help Ireland meet its climate change targets.

The Irish government wants to reduce emissions from farming by a quarter by 2030. Media reports last week suggested that one option being considered was to reduce the national dairy herd by 10 per cent - meaning a cull of 65,000 cows a year for three years, at a cost of โ‚ฌ200 million (ยฃ170 million) annually.

One Irish politician described the plan as "absolute madness" and there are warnings that some farmers will refuse, and others will leave the sector, if an order is introduced.

The Irish government says that no final policy decision has been taken and that any cull would be voluntary as part of a "retirement exit scheme" for farmers.

Comment: The UK has been involved in a similar scheme for decades now, whereby farmers who retire or volunteer to 'rewild' land are paid off.

But some farmers fear it will not be possible to meet the targets with only a voluntary cull. Tim Cullinan, president of the Irish Farmers' Association, warned that beef and dairy production would simply shift to other countries if a limit was introduced in Ireland, undermining the attempted emissions savings.

"Reports like this only serve to further fuel the view that the government is working behind the scenes to undermine our dairy and livestock sectors," he said. "While there may well be some farmers who wish to exit the sector, we should all be focusing on providing a pathway for the next generation to get into farming".

Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, said it was "frustrating" that the industry was being targeted.

"We're the one industry with a significant roadmap, and, to be quite honest with you, our herd isn't any larger than it was 25 to 30 years ago," he said. "Can the same be said for the transport industry, can the same be said for the aviation industry?"

If there is to be a cull, he said, "it needs to be a voluntary scheme. That's absolutely critical".