'Rural fightback' as council set to join Cornwall in resisting meat ban

Rural campaigners are turning their attention to Northamptonshire, where an authority is set to vote on a similar motion to Cornwall Council's
Rural campaigners are turning their attention to Northamptonshire, where an authority is set to vote on a similar motion to Cornwall Council's

A campaign to push local councils into publicly expressing support for farmers is underway, in what campaigners have dubbed a 'rural fightback'.

The move is in response to numerous councils who have voted to adopt plant-based menus, backed by activist groups such as Animal Rising.

However, Cornwall Council recently pledged to support local farmers by proactively sourcing local produce - including meat and dairy - for council events.

The landmark motion also encourages residents to ‘shop locally’ and urges them to take advantage of ‘home-grown, affordable, nutritious food’, irrespective of dietary preference.

It comes in the face of several motions passed at other councils across the UK, which urge residents to buy vegan produce, while also committing to only source vegan options for councillors at events.

But now rural campaigners are turning their attention to Northamptonshire, where a unitary authority there is set to vote on a similar motion to Cornwall Council's.

Conservative councillor Scott Brown, who sits on North Northamptonshire council, has tabled a motion which, if passed, will "encourage people to shop locally, taking advantage of home-grown, affordable and nutritious food, both plant and meat based, thus reducing the food miles on our plates".

The motion, set to be debated next month, states: "Britain has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and N.N.C should engage and work in partnership with our arable and livestock farmers to ensure their ability to enhance our magnificent countryside.

"We need to strive to support them by being sympathetic to diversification opportunities, including the promotion of local produce.

"Elected Members will be vocal in opposing excessive regulation by central government, enabling them to prosper."

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 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.

It has 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’.

The treaty 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 a fully plant-based catering for council meetings by 2026 and promotes vegan food options at civic and external events.

Cllr Scott Brown said: “I was appalled at the decision by neighbouring Oxfordshire to ban meat and dairy products at council events.

"Snubbing hardworking livestock farmers is unacceptable. Without these farmers, our stunning countryside will fall to ruin.

"I want North Northants to join Cornwall in saying no to division and yes to supporting all our fantastic farmers.

He added: “I would hope that this motion gets cross party and unanimous support, it seems a no brainer to me. Buying local, seasonal produce is the way forward, not imposing unnecessary bans”.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance which is backing the motion, said rural campaigners should begin to "fight back".

“We’ve seen several hostile anti-livestock farming measures at town halls elsewhere and the time for moaning from the side-lines is over.

"No council in Britain should be against publicly supporting our farmers or imposing certain diets on anyone.

"Our farmers work hard to maintain and enhance the countryside we know and love and councils need to be their ally”.