Skip to content

Wiltshire set to join growing number of councils defying vegan movement 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-only menus is set to be debated by councillors in Wiltshire.

It 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.

The unitary authority will vote on a motion at its full council meeting on Tuesday 20 February 2024, which, if passed, will see food provided at its catered events sourced from ‘local suppliers’, specifically including meat and dairy. The motion also commits 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’.

The move comes after a string of other councils voted to ban meat and dairy items on council-catered menus elsewhere.

The council is poised to become the sixth in a matter of months to defy the vegan trend, after neighbouring Dorset Council voted to keep meat and dairy following a vote in December. Suffolk, Cornwall, Portsmouth, Fenland, and North Northamptonshire councils have also passed the motion.

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

Submitted by Conservative Councillor Nabil Najjar, it will also instruct the authority to support struggling farmers by being sympathetic to diversification opportunities and by promoting local produce through its new Wiltshire Marque labelling programme.

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

It has urged all of Wiltshire’s 98 councillors, regardless of political allegiance, to vote for the motion “for Wiltshire’s hardworking farming community and the wider countryside”.

Several motions have passed at other councils across the country which 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.

Councillor Nabil Najjar said:

“ I have brought this motion to the Council as a  way of showing our support for our dedicated farming community at a time when many feel frustrated.

Wiltshire has some fantastic local produce which we should be celebrating, and our excellent farmers, growers and land managers need to know that as a Council, we have their back.

It is disappointing to see that other councils have sought to peddle anti- livestock rhetoric when voting to ban meat and dairy at their events, and this motion, which includes livestock, dairy, and arable farming, sets out a strong stance in support of all our farmers and our commitment to high-quality produce and strong welfare standards”.

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

“Across the country we are seeing a change in the way people think about the food they eat and the way it’s sourced. At a time when many people are wanting to play their part in combatting climate change, this campaign, and motions such as the one before Wiltshire councillors, offer an easy and practical way of reducing food miles while supporting the custodians of our countryside.

While some councils have sadly gone the wrong way by implementing divisive and unnecessary bans on meat and dairy, Wiltshire is joining a growing number of councils who are fighting back and offering progressive solutions regardless of dietary preference. If this motion passes, Wiltshire will join Dorset and Cornwall in standing up publicly for our farmers, demonstrating that the South West is leading the way”.

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 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.

Become a member

Join the Countryside Alliance

We are the most effective campaigning organisation in the countryside.

  • life Protect our way of life
  • news Access our latest news
  • insurance Benefit from insurance cover
  • magazine Receive our magazine