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Alliance urges councils to drop veganuary initiatives and support farmers instead

The Countryside Alliance has called for two councils to retract their support for vegan diets, and instead support local farmers and freedom of choice.  

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council and Warwickshire County Council have both recently initiated campaigns that encourage residents to switch to vegetarian or vegan diets under the guise of addressing climate change.  

Tameside Council has urged local residents to sign up to ‘Veganuary’ – a challenge for residents to eat exclusively vegan food for the month of January. The council claims that a plant-based diet reduces pollution and slows the threat of climate change by cutting the number of natural resources used to produce animal-based products.  

Equally, Warwickshire County Council has released an online tool which allows residents to commit to a number of ‘green pledges’. By allowing a user to make a pledge to themselves, the initiative hopes to bolster accountability for individuals’ planned lifestyle changes that often accompany New Year’s.  

One category of these green pledges is titled ‘Food and Waste’, which includes options such as ‘not eat meat two days per week’, ‘adopt a fully vegetarian diet’, and ‘adopt a fully vegan diet’. The council argues that improving diet, which is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions, ‘can be achieved through a reduction in the amount of red meat that is eaten or by adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet, which are both more sustainable and better for the environment’. 

The Alliance has hit back, arguing that the councils appear to rely on global statistics about emissions from livestock farming, which ignore the nuances of UK-specific food production. British meat, thanks to the efficiencies of our farmers, is among the most sustainable in the world. Therefore, promoting veganism not only misleads residents, but poses an ‘attack to British farmers altogether, who work tirelessly to produce nutritious, affordable, and sustainable food for our populace’. 

Additionally, both councils asserted that vegan diets improve diet and overall health - a claim which is, at best, disputed. Professor Christ Elliot, a leading food scientist at Queen’s University in Belfast has warned many plant-based substitute meats are of little nutritional value. He believes profit is the main driver of plant-based products, rather than health or environmental concerns. 

Sabina Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, said:

“British farmers are part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem. The UK agricultural sector is pioneering regenerative farming techniques that reduce emissions and increase biodiversity. It is disappointing to see councils ignoring these efforts and regurgitating lazy claims”. 

She added:

“Tameside and Warwickshire Councils should be using their platforms to promote local meat, dairy, and vegetable produce, rather than spreading tenuous claims about the benefits of plant-based diets or encouraging any one diet for their residents.” 

The Countryside Alliance has been leading a ‘rural fightback’, encouraging councils to commit to supporting local farmers and sourcing locally-produced meat and dairy at their events. 

Dorset, Fenland, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Cornwall, and North Northamptonshire Councils have already voted in favour of the Alliance’s motion – defying other councils around the country which have enforced compulsory veganism at their events and signed up to a ‘Plant-Based Treaty’ that calls for an end to the construction of any future livestock farm. 

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