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Alliance urges Oxfordshire Liberal Democrats to back British farmers ahead of crucial council vote

The Countryside Alliance has written an open letter, published in the Oxford Mail, directed at councillors from both the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party, ahead of an important council vote on July 12th.

In March this year Oxfordshire County Council's Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green cabinet voted in favour of officers' recommendations to ensure that food provided at full council meetings and all civic events is entirely plant-based, despite protests from local farmers, including Jeremy Clarkson.

Shortly after, a Countryside Alliance investigation revealed that the first all plant-based lunch cost the taxpayer more than at least the previous non-plant-based three lunches. Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, the council also said that they had no idea where the food on offer that day was originally sourced, making it difficult to know the carbon footprint from field to plate.

Ahead of a full council meeting on July 12 at 10:30am, when councillors are set to vote on whether to scrap the existing policy of procuring only plant-based goods, the Countryside Alliance is directly appealing to councillors from both the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party, urging them to instead adopt a policy which caters to all and supports local farmers.

The full motion, which has been moved by Cllr. Yvonne Constance (Conservative), states:

'This Council notes that the Leader has acknowledged the challenging market conditions faced by Oxfordshire's excellent meat and dairy farmers'

'This Council further notes that local authorities have an important duty to engage positively and proportionately in public discourse'.

'Given the privileged position in which this Council finds itself and the potentially damaging effects of its motion dated 14 December, this Council resolves to offer locally produced menus at Council-catered events, including meat, dairy and vegan options, or to make alternative provisions for members, staff and attendees to facilitate personal choice'.

If you live in Oxfordshire, you can write to your county councillor and urge them to vote in support of local farmers, by voting to scrap the existing, divisive policy at the full council meeting on July 12th. Click here to find your Oxfordshire county councillor, by typing in your post code.

A spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance said: " The existing policy, which bans providing meat and dairy products at council events, is divisive and illogical. British livestock farmers produce some of the most sustainable produce on the planet. At the national level, the Liberal Democrats often allude to being a party that stands up for farming. Yet in Oxfordshire, their joint-run administration has waved through one of the most anti-farming policies ever known. Our appeal is also directed at the Labour Party, who have been making noises about establishing themselves in the countryside."

He added: "On July 12, councillors will have the opportunity to back local farmers by supporting Cllr. Yvonne Constance's motion. We hope that, irrespective of political allegiances, every councillor supports this incredibly sensible alternative and that we can, all together, move forward for the countryside and our environment".

A full copy of the letter to the Oxford Mail, can be found below:


Whatever way Oxfordshire County Council choose to dress up the current divisive policy to not serve meat and dairy on its event menus, it is clear from public reaction that it has not gone down very well. Not only did the first all-plant-based lunch cost much more than at least the previous three lunches, but the council was worryingly unable to clearly say where the exotic fruit and vegetables on offer were originally grown. There's a huge amount of sustainably produced seasonal food on offer thanks to local farmers. Surely the council should be supporting them by offering that local produce at their events, including meat and dairy. At the national level, both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats have been very vocal about wanting to show support for British farmers. So, when a vote comes before the council to scrap this divisive policy, their councillors should do the right thing and support it. Doing so will show that Oxfordshire County Council supports the hard-working local farming community and believes in freedom of the individual to make their own dietary choices.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher

Countryside Alliance

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