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Wiltshire becomes latest to council to defy plant-based movement in show of support for farmers

Wiltshire Council has become the latest local authority to vote in support of a Countryside Alliance campaign to proactively support local farmers and block councils from banning meat and dairy.


On Tuesday evening, councillors passed a motion introduced by Conservative Councillor Nabil Najjar, ensuring that all catering at council-organised events is sourced from local suppliers, specifically including meat and dairy options, alongside fruit and vegetables. It will also commit the council to being ‘vocal in opposing attempts to diminish the role our meat, dairy, and arable farmers play in our rural way of life’.


In addition, the motion also commits the authority to encouraging local residents to shop locally, where possible, taking advantage of home-grown, affordable, and nutritious produce, with an aim of reducing food miles to plates. Following a debate in the council chamber, the vote passed with 70 councillors voting in favour and three abstaining.


Wiltshire now becomes the seventh council to defy campaigns elsewhere, which have seen several councils- including Oxfordshire and the London Borough of Enfield- ban meat and dairy products at their events, while pushing for the public to adopt plant-based diets. Wiltshire joins Dorset, Fenland, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Cornwall, and North Northamptonshire councils who have all voted to keep meat and dairy on their menus.


Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday evening, Cllr Nabil Najjar (Conservative), said:


“This motion sets up both a moral and practical position, and it sends a very clear message to our farmers and food producers: Wiltshire Council is on your side”.

He added:


“On the face of it, this motion is purely aimed at supporting farmers but the reality is that it goes so much further than that. This is a motion which empowers the custodians of our countryside, it is a motion which shows our support for the people who invest their time and money in retaining the natural beauty of our landscape and providing the food that we eat. It is a motion for those who enjoy the produce that our country delivers, whether its from those who buy it locally at farm shops or local markets, or even those who export it to wide audiences. It is a motion for all who enjoy our countryside and our rural way of life”.

Cllr Elizabeth Threlfall, who voted to support the motion, said:


“It’s important to mention that while concerns have been raised about emissions caused by livestock farming, the statistics quoted for these are almost always global ones that are based on the intensive farming practices in North and South America, where the animals are fed on corn or maize. Most Wiltshire livestock tend to be fed on grass or silage, and this produces significantly less methane emissions”.

Cllr Richard Clewer, the Leader of the Wiltshire Council added:


“ The countryside cannot be forced into the way we address [climate change]. We have an awful lot of countryside that is managed and maintained by our farmers, and we need to support them. The more we do to a) support our farmers and b) use farm shops, get out there and buy local produce wherever we can, the better. We’ve got to understand their issues and reach out to them.

The motion received cross party support with Cllr Paul Sample (Liberal Democrat) saying:


“My father was a farmer, I grew up on a farm. I spent the first 16 years of my life looking after animals. I am delighted that this motion has been brought today and I fully support it, and am enthusiastic about it. I’d like to see us all aware of our great food heritage. When it comes to our food recipes, I’d really like to see the council working with the farmers on what constitutes a Wiltshire menu using Wiltshire produce and old Wiltshire recipes”.

Speaking after the vote, Councillor Najjar said he was “delighted” to see the motion pass.


He said:


“I have been overwhelmed with emails and calls over the past few days and the message is crystal clear - stand strong with our farmers and food producers - and that is exactly what this motion has done”.

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


“We are so pleased to see yet another victory in this growing rural-common sense revolution. We thank Nabil Najjar for getting this incredibly important motion through council, particularly as other councils are opting to ban meat and dairy. It is right that at a time when farmers are feeling unrecognised and unrest is growing, Wiltshire demonstrates its wholehearted support for all farmers and the vital work they are doing to produce sustainable food to put on our tables, while also working hard to enhance and protect our amazing countryside. We want to see more councils back our campaign and support farmers and food producers in the same way that Wiltshire has now committed to doing”.

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, while Cambridge City Council will transition to fully plant-based catering for council meetings by 2026.


Last night’s vote comes as farmers in parts of the UK, including in Wales and Scotland, have staged protests and mass meetings in response to growing concerns about several areas of agricultural and rural policy.


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