by Mo Metcalf Fisher

The Countryside Alliance has joined local farmers and council opposition members in criticising Oxfordshire County Council's leadership, after it voted to approve a proposal to provide entirely plant-based food at meetings and civic events.

Despite protests outside the meeting from local farmers, including Jeremy Clarkson, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet have voted in favour of officers’ recommendations to ensure that food provided at full council meetings and all civic events is entirely plant-based.

Pete Sudbury, the Cabinet Member for Climate Change Delivery and Environment, told councillors: “Nobody is forcing anything down people’s throats.

“There are two main justifications for this motion: the health of our planet and the health of our people.

“Oxfordshire’s farmers are part of the solution, not the problem.”

Liam Walker, a Conservative councillor for Hanborough & Minster Lovell who is against the proposals, spoke to the Countryside Alliance following the meeting.

Mr. Walker said: " Personally I believe that we all should have the freedom of choice with what we want to eat and no council should be able to dictate what should eaten by councillors or staff. Whilst I accept this is only a handful of meetings a year for me this is a matter of principle.

"The new administration at OCC should be focused on the issues they promised the residents of Oxfordshire they were going to fix, like our roads, infrastructure, and public transport. Instead they are focused on stealth taxes like parking charges, increasing our council tax to the highest levels ever, and now what meals should be eaten during our meetings.

"Being vegan is a personal choice just like it’s my personal choice to have meat in my diet and therefore support our local farmers in Oxfordshire - many of whom have had a really difficult few years and need all the support we can give them."

Mo Metcalf- Fisher, a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: "Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet talk about ‘leading the way’ when justifying their decision to prohibit meat. The only thing they appear to be leading on, is fundamentally misunderstanding the incredibly important work our UK farmers do to enhance and protect our Great British countryside.

“They don't appear to have listened to the important concerns raised by their local farming community either, yet staggeringly claim farmers are ‘part of the solution’. How can that be the case when they introduce a blanket ban on providing their locally produced goods?  Oxfordshire taxpayers want to see councillors dealing with local issues, not grandstanding on what people can and cannot eat".

Jeremy Clarkson, who farms and films his hit TV series in Oxfordshire, told the BBC: "It's the principle of it. You can't dictate.

"You might be a vegetarian but you can't make everyone else a vegetarian just because you are."

The AHDB had challenged Oxfordshire County Council prior to the vote, as such a proposal 'failed to reflect' the true impact of British farming.

For example, the carbon footprint of milk produced in the UK is nearly a third lower than the global average, the levy organisation pointed out.

Lord Deben, chairman of the Climate Change Committee in England, has made it clear that pro-vegan activists are wrong to argue that eating meat is not environmentally friendly and were “muddying” the wider debate on climate change by calling for plant-based diets.

The Countryside Alliance continues to push back against anti-farming rhetoric and policies and asks the public to contact us, should they become aware of relevant developments at their local authority. 

While you are here: Help us continue standing up for the rural way of life by joining us today, by clicking here! 

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