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Portsmouth set to become fourth council to defy vegan trend in show of support for farmers

A  Countryside Alliance campaign to push local councils into publicly expressing support for farmers while rejecting compulsory plant-based menus has reached Portsmouth.

The City Council is set to vote on a motion at its full council meeting on Tuesday 14 November 2023, which if passed, will see the local authority ensure it “always” provides meat and dairy options, alongside plant-based options, from ‘local suppliers’ at its catered events, after a string of other councils voted banned meat and dairy items on council catered menus.

The council is poised to become the fourth in a matter of weeks to defy the vegan trend, after Suffolk County Council voted to keep meat and dairy following a vote last month. Cornwall and North Northamptonshire have also passed the motion.

In addition, the motion would also commit the authority to encouraging Portsmouth residents to shop locally, where possible, taking advantage of home-grown, affordable, and nutritious produce, including meat, dairy, seafood and plant-based options with an aim of reducing the food miles to “our tables”.

The motion, which has been submitted by Conservative Councillor Benedict Swann, will also instruct the council to explore allowing local small businesses and producers to display and sell their products in the vicinity of the Portsmouth Cruise Terminal “so as to champion our fantastic local produce to visitors to the city and raise the city's profile”.

The Countryside Alliance, which has spearheaded a national campaign to get councils to adopt ‘farming friendly’ policies while pushing back against attempts to introduce bans on meat and dairy, has welcomed the motion.

It has urged all of Portsmouth’s 42 councillors, regardless of political allegiance, to vote for the motion “for the good of the county’s hardworking farming community and the wider countryside”.

Several motions passed at other councils across the country encourage residents to buy ‘plant-based’ produce in a move away from meat and dairy, while also committing to only source vegan options for councillors at events.

In 2021, Oxfordshire County Council sparked outrage among farmers, including Jeremy Clarkson, when it passed a motion to ban meat and dairy at its events. At the time, the council justified the policy by saying it was ‘in the interest of the health of our planet and the health of our people’. The controversial policy was backed by Animal Rebellion - now Rising - an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion. The council also sponsored a taxpayer-funded website, urging people to adopt a plant-based diet to help “slow climate change, rein in habitat loss, and regenerate the health of our planet”.

Three councils – Edinburgh City Council, Norwich City Council, and Haywards Heath Town Council in Sussex – have also signed up to the ‘Plant-Based Treaty’, which calls for an end to the construction of any future livestock farms and pushes plant-based food in schools and hospitals. It also includes a pledge to promote vegan food over animal products.

Enfield Borough Council also removed meat from the menu of its catering service in 2020, while Cambridge City Council will transition to fully plant-based catering for council meetings by 2026.

Councillor Benedict Swann said:

“Our county and region plays a huge role in producing sustainable food and it’s high time we recognised that as a council and do everything we can to help them. When other councils have voted through divisive, illogical bans on meat and dairy, Portsmouth must stand with those on the side of farmers, growers, fisherman and freedom of choice and that is what my motion sets out to do. I hope every councillor, regardless of political affiliation, votes in support”.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, Director of External Affairs for the organisation, said:

“Across the country we are seeing more and more councils back our campaign to support local farmers and growers, while pre-emptively rejecting bans on meat and dairy and so-called plant-based treaties that seek to eradicate livestock farming. Portsmouth now has a historic opportunity to be the first UK city to sign up to this important motion.

“Red meat produced in the UK is among the most sustainable in the world, and it makes every bit of sense for local authorities to encourage the public to play their part in fighting climate change by sourcing seasonal and sustainable produce from local farmers and growers - irrespective of whether its meat or vegetables. We hope all political parties support this motion”.


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