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Local elections: Alliance calls for rural realism amplified by press

The Countryside Alliance has called for voters heading to the polls in England's local elections to consider their candidates’ understanding of the realities of rural life, and their commitment to standing up for farmers and freedom of choice in the face of activist demands for policies aimed at imposing veganism. 

Media outlets including The Times, The Telegraph, the Daily Mail and agricultural press have picked up the baton and, in recent days, covered our work to highlight the dangers of faddish motions that attack livestock farming and suggest council facilities should be forced to remove meat and dairy from menus, regardless of the wishes of residents who rely on them. 

The Telegraph described the so-called “Plant Based Treaty” – which is not a treaty, but merely a manifesto that activists have been encouraging councils to sign up to – as: 

“Nuts, obviously. But it’s nuts which UK cities have endorsed, including Norwich and Edinburgh. And I bet it’s something about which their residents are unaware. I mean, when you vote in the local election, are you thinking whether the candidate’s party wants to drive livestock farmers out of business? You’re more likely to think bin collections. But, as the Countryside Alliance has pointed out, voters who back candidates who support the Treaty could be, unknowingly, damaging farming and the rural economy.” 

The column went on to highlight the inherent absence of logic in treating all animal agriculture the same, whereas as we have pointed out, standards of animal welfare and environmental performance differ widely – and in the UK are among the best in the world: 

“So, intensive poultry farms, where chickens don’t have room to roost, are treated the same as the one a friend of mine runs in Suffolk where the birds scratch around in the open, roost in little outdoor huts and come running towards visitors in the hope of a feed. In Norfolk you’ve got exemplary pig farms where hairy pedigree pigs race each other round the fields; the treaty supposedly treats those farms the same as the ones where these intelligent beasts die of boredom in cramped pens.” 

Sir Robert Goodwill MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, told The Times: 

“This is a slap in the face for British farmers, particularly in the uplands who face the toughest time producing the best lamb and beef in the world. We should be putting that on the menus. There’s nothing wrong with vegetarian food but we need a balanced diet which does include meat and dairy.” 

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail pointed to the consequences of Oxfordshire County Council’s decision to stop serving meat and dairy at its own functions, in a move set to be copied by Oxford City: 

“Prior to the decision, councillors enjoyed a plush menu of seasonal British favourites put on by local supplier Elegant Cuisine… Included on their prospective menus are local favourites such as Oxfordshire pork tenderloin and corn-fed chicken. This is in stark contrast to what the new meals may look like after a similar scheme introduced by Oxfordshire County Council caused eco-embarrassment after Green Cllr Ian Middleton shared a picture of a buffet including exported kiwi fruit and mangoes last year – to the ire of some locals.” 

The Countryside Alliance will continue to stand up for a vibrant, interconnected British farming sector in which livestock maintains its central role. We are a non-partisan campaign and seek to make no suggestions as to which parties or candidates people vote for at any election. It is clear, however, that if voters object to policies that attack British farming for ideological reasons spuriously connected to climate change, their best remedy is to turn out and vote against them. 

Remember to bring ID 

As a final reminder, this year’s local elections will be the first in England to require voters to produce photographic ID. Do ensure you bring an acceptable form of identification with you to the polling station. 

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