At issue are measures foreseen in the roadmap, which aims to make Portugal neutral in terms of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, by reducing cattle production under plans put forward by the minister of environment, João Pedro Matos Fernandes.

The roadmap, which was put out to public consultation until February, also covers sectors such as energy, industry and transport.

"The set of measures contained in the commitment will only be effective if all [EU] states collaborate because the problem is global,” said Elisabete Guincho of the National Federation of Indigenous Breeds Associations (FERA), during a hearing of parliament’s agriculture committee. “For sure, the reduction of these emissions cannot be done at the expense of importing products from other countries."

According to Guincho, "rather than proposing the reduction of emissions [what] is necessary [is] a policy that focusses on good dietary practices."

A similar opinion was expressed in the same hearing by the secretary-general of the Confederation of Farmers of Portugal (CAP), Luís Mira, who noted that the roadmap for carbon neutrality, which aims to back up Portugal’s commitment under the Paris agreement on climate change, has "implications for the entire economy" between now and 2050.

"This commitment will only have a practical effect if nations overall follow the same” line,” he argued. “The government has decided to go further. The trajectory that Portugal [has outlined] is not in line with the objectives set at European and global level."

For his part, the leader of the National Confederation of Agriculture (CNA), João Dinis, said that calling a "halt to the race to emit greenhouse gases" was more than overdue, but stressed that Portugal cannot be naïve to the point of believing that the "dominant systems", including the US government, will follow the same path.

Meanwhile, the director of the National Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives and Agricultural Credit (Confagri), Idalino Leão, stressed that sector associations should have been called to testify to parliament before the government drafted its proposal.

Pedro Espadinha of the National Federation of Cattle Associations (FEPABO), for his part, stressed that cows are being blamed in an "erroneous, false and lying” manner for the bulk of carbon emissions.

Among the political parties, João Dias of the Communist Party expressed concern about a lack of measures to support production, rather than attacks on farmers.

António Lima e Costa of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, argued that the roadmap introduces "a serious problem" into the sector, stressing that rural areas never have much input into the development of public policies.

For the governing Socialists, Pedro do Carmo said that the government "never forgest agriculture" and has shown itself to be sympathetic with the concerns of the organisations represented at the hearing.