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Suffolk Council becomes third council to defy vegan trend in show of support for farmers

The Countryside Alliance has welcomed a move by Suffolk County Council to support local farmers and growers and recognise their contributions to sustainability and economic growth, in what the campaigning organisation has dubbed a “rural fightback”, launched to block councils from going vegan.

On Thursday, the authority passed a motion ensuring all catering at council-organised events is sourced from local farmers, and always includes meat and dairy options alongside plant-based produce. Councillors also committed to enhancing partnerships with arable, livestock, and dairy farmers, and encouraging Suffolk residents to shop locally, where possible.

The motion was backed by 59 councillors, with no votes against and three Green Party councillors abstaining.

Consequently, Suffolk has defied the senseless ‘go vegan’ trend which has swayed several councils across the country, resulting in councils- including Oxfordshire- banning meat and dairy products at their events and pushing for the public to adopt plant-based diets, at the expense of local farmers.

Suffolk is now the third council in a matter of months to defy the vegan trend, after Cornwall and North Northamptonshire councils voted to keep meat and dairy on their menus.

Councillors praised the wide-ranging economic benefits Suffolk farmers and growers offer to the region; with 2,500 farms and 300,000 acres of land, Suffolk’s agriculture is a major source of employment and economic opportunity. They also noted the well as the social benefits of having a community-oriented food supply and knowing the individuals who produce your food.

Additionally, councillors dispelled myths about the carbon emissions attributed to UK livestock and recognised the value of Suffolk farmers in meeting environmental targets, including by innovative, regenerative farming, protecting biodiversity, and managing wildlife.

Councillors also highlighted the importance of maintaining a local food supply chain for food security and not depending upon the fragile global food trade. They reinforced that local agriculture is more than a job and is a way of life, so farmers should not be taken for granted.

Ultimately, councillors affirmed that the motion is not about the particularities of agrarian policy – it is rather about celebrating the work that Suffolk farmers and growers do, and sending an unequivocal message that the County Council has their back.

Speaking after the vote, Cllr. Richard Rout said: “I’m delighted that this motion passed but it is disappointing that three Green councillors felt unable to support it.

“Coming from a farming family, I know first-hand just how hard our farmers and growers work to feed and sustain our nation. Agriculture and agribusiness are an integral part of our local economy.

“This motion not only commits us to doubling down on our support for local farmers but also ensures dietary choice at all our events, keeping meat and dairy firmly on the table alongside plant-based options.”

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, Director of External Affairs for the Countryside Alliance, who attended the meeting said: “This is a fantastic result for Suffolk’s farmers- livestock and arable- and a victory for freedom of choice and common sense. Sadly, we have seen a number of councils implement illogical, draconian bans on meat and dairy elsewhere, so it has become necessary to fight back. We thank Richard Rout for championing the rural community today and urge councils across the country to follow Suffolk, Cornwall and North Northamptonshire, in submitting and passing this motion.”

In 2021, Oxfordshire County Council sparked outrage among farmers, including Jeremy Clarkson, when it passed a motion submitted by a Green party councillor, 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 farm 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.

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