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Bath and North East Somerset Council urged to defy calls to “go vegan”

The Countryside Alliance has urged Bath and North East Somerset Council to defy calls for it to “go vegan”, while urging the authority to champion local, seasonal produce, including meat and dairy, instead.

It comes after council leader Cllr. Kevin Guy (Lib Dem, Bathavon North) agreed to discuss the demand from local resident Matt Cooper, who stood as a Green candidate in the local elections in May. Mr Cooper addressed a full council meeting last month, urging the council to make the switch to providing vegan food, “even if this only applied to refreshments at a very small number of events per year”.

He said: “It is a very small step which sends a powerful message and helps to normalise plant-based eating.”

However, the Countryside Alliance, which campaigns for UK farming, argued that removing meat and dairy options represented an attack on freedom of choice and risks posing a threat to the countryside.

Its spokesman, Mo Metcalf-Fisher, said that while councils should display a wholesome range of produce, including plant-based options, it is wrong to advocate for bans on meat and dairy.  

Mr Metcalf-Fisher said: “There is nothing wrong with wanting a local authority to offer up a range of sustainable produce, including plant-based, but that must not come at the expense of providing equally sustainable meat and dairy products. Red meat produced in Britain is among the most sustainable in the world and unlike some plant-based products, very little meat consumed in the UK comes from systems that deplete rainforests and generate large amounts of emissions. Bath and North East Somerset Council should be using their platform to reinforce the value of sourcing sustainable, local produce and championing hardworking farmers, rather than advocating for any one dietary choice”.

He added: “Knowing where your food comes from and how it is produced is far more important than whether it is animal or  plant-based. Challenging assumptions about the benefits of some plant-based products and the casual denigration of livestock farming matters because if they are allowed to go unchallenged, they threaten the viability of both the planet and the countryside.”

Last year, Oxfordshire County Council provoked uproar after it voted to remove meat and dairy items from its list of items offered to local councillors. Local farmers, including Jeremy Clarkson, protested outside the council offices ahead of the meeting in March 2022. A Freedom of Information Act request shortly after the vote found that the free lunches for Oxfordshire councillors cost taxpayers more after it went plant-based.

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