“Our current food system is broken. It erodes public health, damages the environment and puts our farmers under financial strain. Farmers could and should be a major part of the solution to all of these problems – but they will require strong political leadership and our wholehearted support.” [Dominic Fairman, Cornwall Councillor]
There’s quite a debate going on at council level.
In January, Exeter City Council set itself a target to have fully vegan catering by the end of May: Exeter City Council’s plant-based food plans angers farmers – BBC News
Exeter City Council will showcase plant-based foods at council-catered events in order to help protect the planet and has set a target for internal event catering to be fully vegan by May 2023. The authority will also ensure that council-run external sites, including leisure centres, cafés, and restaurants, will have plant-based options available. Councils Go Vegan – in the UK and Worldwide
The motion was backed overwhelmingly by councillors. But subsequently, the British Farmers Union said a number of their members are concerned: “We, the BFU, see this motion, in part, as being detrimental to the rights of an individual to choose a wholesome, balanced diet.” But one frontline NHS medic, in a letter sent in to our sister title the Express and Echo, has hit back, and written in full support of the council. Dr Alan Desmond, NHS consultant gastroenterologist, said the decision to go vegan is ‘doctor approved’. NHS doctor backs Exeter council’s move to ‘go vegan’ – Devon Live
Also in January, Edinburgh become the first European capital to endorse a plant-based diet: Edinburgh becomes first European city to commit to vegetarian menu in schools to reduce footprint | Daily Mail Online
The city council has signed on to the Plant Based Treaty, an initiative which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture. The treaty could eventually see the council introduce some carbon labelling on menus and transition to more plant based meals in schools and council buildings. What is the Plant Based Treaty and why has the city of Edinburgh endorsed it? | Euronews
In March, Oxford city council unanimously voted in favour of only providing food at internal councillor events which were 100% plant based: Oxford City Council approves vegan food only policy | Oxford Mail
Oxford City Council follows in the footsteps of the wider Oxford County Council, which introduced a similar motion in 2021. “This Council recognizes that meat and dairy production is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global deforestation and that reducing consumption of these foods is a key part of tackling climate change and improving health outcomes,” the council stated at the time. Oxford City Council Bans Meat And Goes Plant-Based
Livestock farmed in a quality, environmentally enhancing way play a key role in the sustainable management of the British countryside. It is naïve and inaccurate to argue otherwise. Britain is a grassland topography and the best way to maintain this and to gain nutritional benefits from it is through responsible livestock farming. Love British Food founder hits back at latest ‘authoritarian’ council meat ban | Public Sector Catering
This week, Cornwall county council went the other way: Cornwall council vows to serve meat and dairy at event in fight back against vegan authorities | Daily Mail Online
The motion, believed to be the first of its kind, will ensure the council’s commitment to local farmers by proactively sourcing local, seasonal produce – explicitly including meat and dairy – at council events, while encouraging residents to shop locally and urging them to take advantage of ‘home-grown, affordable, nutritious food’, irrespective of dietary preference. County council votes to support farmers in Cornwall | Falmouth Packet
While supportive of the motion, Cllr Dominic Fairman [who is also a farmer] was critical of its ‘blind spot’. He said: “Whilst the motion goes to great lengths to emphasis how important meat and dairy are to a balanced diet – we are simply not getting that balance right, to the detriment of our health, and more importantly to this council, an ever-increasing knock-on burden to Social Care. In fact, the motion omits mentioning horticulture at all – despite the importance of potatoes and brassicas to the Cornish economy. This blind spot is reflected by the Government’s own position as they have just scrapped their commitment to produce a ‘world-leading’ horticulture strategy.
“And now to the elephant in the room. We also need a 30% reduction in meat consumption to meet our own climate and nature recovery targets that are now enshrined in UK law. Yes, we need to support our farmers. But we also need to be honest about the direction of travel and support the transition toward nature-friendly farming – producing free range and pasture-fed meat while meeting the increasing market-driven demand for plant-based foods. The public are becoming increasingly aware of the climate and health implications of our diet, consumption of meat is falling, and we should be embracing this shift instead of resisting it.
“Our current food system is broken. It erodes public health, damages the environment and puts our farmers under financial strain. Farmers could and should be a major part of the solution to all of these problems – but they will require strong political leadership and our wholehearted support.” ‘Landmark’ decision to support Cornwall’s farmers – Cornwall Live