Cornwall councillors have voted in favour of a ‘landmark’ motion which campaigners say marks a ‘fightback’ against anti-livestock farming sentiment seen at other councils.
The first-of-its-kind motion will ensure the council’s commitment to local farmers by proactively sourcing local, seasonal produce - including meat and dairy - at council events.
Residents will be encouraged to ‘shop locally’ and urged to take advantage of ‘home-grown, affordable, nutritious food’, irrespective of dietary preference.
The move comes in the face of several motions 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.
The motion submitted by Conservative councillor Nick Craker, which passed almost unanimously, recognises the "huge contribution made by [our] local farmers to the Cornish economy and its rural communities."
It adds: "Cornwall Council commits to developing stronger partnerships with our arable, livestock, and dairy farmers in order to enhance our magnificent countryside.
"The council will also strive to support farmers, by being sympathetic to ‘diversification opportunities and promotion of local produce."
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."
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”.
Quoting Clarkson’s Farm Star, Kaleb Cooper, Cllr Craker introduced the motion by saying: “You need a doctor once a year maybe and a fireman once in a lifetime, if you're unlucky. But you need a farmer three times a day”.
He said: “33,000 people are employed in the agri-food sector in Cornwall. As a percentage that’s double the national rate for England.
"In terms of output the sector in Cornwall accounts for nearly 17% of GVA, that’s four times the national average for England.
“Livestock production, especially dairy, is the largest proportion of the production sector, but we also have a large- and growing- commercial horticulture sector as well.
“A small minority of councils around the country, like Oxfordshire, have voted to abolish meat and dairy [at council events].
"I can’t begin to imagine the damage that would do to Cornwall. Supporting all our farmers and growers is essential for our economy here in Cornwall,” he added.
“Food production and environmental promotion are not an either or. We need both in equal measure.
"We also need to consider paying more for food that’s sustainable – it’s no good stopping production here only to import cheaply from South America and cut down the rainforest to meet consumer choice.
“We can do small things like ensuring we source seasonal meat, dairy and plant-based produce for Council events and services. Let’s always practice what we preach.”
“Let’s ensure our residents know how to source local dairy, how to cook good local meat. I ask members to back Cornwall’s farmers and food producers today.
"It’s good for the economy, it’s essential for the environment and it’s critical to keep putting food on all of our tables – meat, dairy and plant-based”.
After a lively discussion among councillors at New County Hall in Truro, Cllr Craker urged one of the Liberal Democrat councillors present- who voted in favour of the motion- to write to his Liberal Democrat colleagues in Oxfordshire, urging them to drop the ban.
Three councils, Edinburgh City Council, Norwich City Council and Haywards Heath Town Council in Sussex, have also signed up to the ‘Plant-Based Treaty’.
This 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.
Responding to the vote, the Countryside Alliance said the result in Cornwall was a ‘victory for common sense’ and will now urge other rural councils to follow suit.
Mo Metcalf-Fisher, a spokesman for the group said: “This is a big victory for our farmers, the countryside and common sense.
"Buying and sourcing local, seasonal produce to cut down on mileage is the way forward, not imposing draconian and divisive bans on meat and dairy.
"This vote represents the start of a much-needed fightback against those who, through their anti-livestock farming agendas, risk turning our countryside into a moribund wasteland”.
Prominent social media star, Welsh hill farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, posted to congratulate the council too.
In a video from his farm, he said: “It’s wonderful [today] from Cornwall. The council have been voting and supporting farmers. British farmers. Seasonal, regional food.
"And do you know what, I think that every single council in the UK should follow track. Not try and be like these ‘super cool’ plant-based, we’re going to save to planet, types.
"No, we can save the planet by eating seasonal, local, regenerative, food that’s produced by the farmers in the UK. Well done everyone in Cornwall.
"Let’s make sure we can put pressure on all our local councils so they are buying seasonal, they are buying local and they are supporting British farmers, British agriculture and the British economy”.