Portsmouth council becomes first city to pass motion backing farmers

Portsmouth has become the first city authority to defy compulsory veganism in a show of support for all local farmers
Portsmouth has become the first city authority to defy compulsory veganism in a show of support for all local farmers

Portsmouth City Council has become the first city and the latest local authority to vote to support local farmers and recognise their contributions.

The city authority passed a motion ensuring that all catering at its events is sourced from local producers, specifically including meat and dairy, alongside plant-based produce.

In a bid to ‘reduce food miles to our tables’, councillors also committed to exploring ways of encouraging Portsmouth residents to ‘shop local’.

The motion will also see the local authority investigate the possibility of allowing local small businesses and producers to display and sell their products in the vicinity of Portsmouth Cruise Terminal, which sees some 250,000 visitors every year.

The motion was unanimously voted through by the city’s 42 councillors.

Portsmouth now becomes the latest council to defy campaigns successful elsewhere, which have seen several councils - including Oxfordshire and the London Borough of Enfield - banning meat and dairy at their events, while pushing for the public to adopt plant-based diets.

It also is the fourth council in a matter of weeks to defy calls for it to “go vegan”, after Suffolk, Cornwall, and North Northamptonshire councils voted to keep meat and dairy on their menus.

Cllr Benedict Swann, who introduced the motion, recognised the many contributions that local farmers and growers make to the Portsmouth community and economy – despite being an urban area.

He highlighted the 125 acres of remaining coastal grazing marshes, which feed livestock, as well as the top-class products and beverages made in the city, such as baked goods, vinegar, beer, and cordial.

Councillors also praised the many farmers' markets in the region, including the Hampshire Farmer’s Market.

They spoke about the value of meeting and speaking to farmers at these events, and understanding more about where food comes from.

Additionally, councillors recognised the value of farmers in meeting environmental targets through regenerative farming.

Liberal Democrat councillors introduced an amendment which noted that the council should not require meat and dairy products at events for certain groups who cannot eat meat or dairy.

Speaking after the vote, Cllr. Benedict Swann said: “As a city authority surrounded by beautiful countryside, it is right we play our part in championing local farmers and growers, and stand up to the nonsense we have sadly seen at mainly city councils elsewhere.

“This motion not only commits us to supporting local farmers who do so much for our environment, but also ensures diet inclusivity at all our events, while keeping meat and dairy firmly on the table”.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, director of external affairs for the Countryside Alliance, which campaigned for the motion to pass, said it was a 'fantastic result for common sense'.

“Livestock farming in this country is among the most sustainable in the world and there can never be any justification for banning meat and dairy produce.

"Without our famers, the countryside we know and love will turn into a wasteland. We are going to be taking our campaign across the country, urging every council to back it”.

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 Rebellion - now 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’.

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 fully plant-based catering for council meetings by 2026.