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Three more councils join Countryside Alliance campaign to keep meat and dairy on the menu

Three councils, including the first in Scotland, have signed onto a Countryside Alliance pro-farming campaign over the past two weeks.

Rutland County Council, Peterborough City Council, and Highland Council have passed motions committing to encouraging residents to shop locally when purchasing food, including meat, dairy, and plant-based products, with the aim of reducing food miles to plates.

Rutland County Council and Peterborough City Council also committed to sourcing more home-grown produce at council-catered events, specifically including meat, dairy, and plant-based products. 

On Monday, 25 March, Rutland County Council passed the pro-farming motion introduced by Conservative Councillor Giles Clifton with 26 votes in favour and 1 abstention. Peterborough City Council unanimously voted through a similar motion on Wednesday, 20 March, introduced by Conservative Councillor Andy Coles. Highland Council’s farming motion was unanimously passed on Thursday, March 14.

The move comes after a string of councils around the UK have voted to ban meat and dairy items on council-catered menus elsewhere and committed to transitioning to fully plant-based catering for council meetings. In passing the pro-farming motion, Highland Council, Peterborough City, and Rutland County Councils have become the eighth, ninth, and tenth councils respectively to defy the vegan trend.

It comes as thousands of farmers have protested around England and Wales this week, including over 100 tractors gathering at Parliament and driving slowly through London. The farmers protested against cheap food imports and unsupportive agricultural policies.       

After the council meeting, Councillor Giles Clifton (Conservative) said:

“It is welcome news that Rutland County Council has affirmed itself to be four-square behind our farmers, growers, and food and drink sectors who all do so much for Rutland and deserve our support. I am also pleased that the Council chose to support our livestock and dairy farmers in particular.”

Peterborough City Councillor Andy Coles (Conservative) said:

“I am delighted to have seen the motion pass with such cross-party support. In the Greater Peterborough area, farming and food production employs around 8,000 people, bringing in nearly £1.1 billion to the East of England economy.”

At Highland Council, Councillor Angus Macdonald (Liberal Democrat) said:

“Britain imports 46% of our food – perhaps in the Highlands we import 70%. We don’t help our own farmers in this respect. They get grants not to have livestock. What can our council really do to help crofts and help farmers in the West? … I urge you to support [this] motion.”

Sabina Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, said:

“It is fantastic to see three more councils back our landmark motion and recognise the work that farmers do to both provide us with quality produce and protect our countryside. It is more important than ever for farmers to be a part of the conversation about our climate future – and supporting local, sustainable produce is vital within that effort.”

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 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.

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