Suffolk Council poised to defy vegan trend by pledging support for farmers

Suffolk County Council could become the third local authority in a matter of months to defy the vegan trend
Suffolk County Council could become the third local authority in a matter of months to defy the vegan trend

Suffolk County Council is poised to defy the vegan trend seen in other councils across the UK and instead show its support for livestock farmers.

The council is set to vote on a motion on 19 October, which, if passed, will see it 'always' provide locally sourced meat and dairy options, alongside plant-based options, at its catered events.

The council is poised to become the third in a matter of months to defy the vegan trend, after Cornwall and North Northamptonshire councils voted to keep meat and dairy.

In addition, it would also commit the authority to urge Suffolk residents to shop locally, where possible, taking advantage of home-grown meat, dairy and plant-based options.

The motion also aims to boost the local economy and “reduce food miles to our tables.”

Submitted by Councillor Richar Rout, the Conservative council’s deputy leader, the motion commits the council to further enhancing its partnerships with arable, livestock and dairy farmers to “enhance” Suffolk’s “magnificent countryside”.

It has been welcomed by rural campaigners at the Countryside Alliance, which has spearheaded a national campaign to get councils to adopt ‘farming friendly’ policies, while pushing back against attempts to introduce bans on meat and dairy.

It has urged all of Suffolk’s 75 councillors to vote for the motion “for the good of Suffolk’s hardworking farming community and the wider countryside”.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, director of external affairs for the group, said: “We have seen a number of local councils turn their backs on farmers in recent years with puerile motions that ban meat and dairy consumption.

"Rural communities have had enough and are fighting back. If we were to lose livestock farming - as is undoubtedly the aim of those wanting to impose plant-based eating - our countryside would turn into a barren wasteland.

"We hope all political parties support this motion. The countryside is watching”.

Tom Hunt, the Conservative MP for Ipswich in Suffolk, added: “Why rely on plant-based alternatives imported from across the globe, when you can eat sustainable, local produce, be it meat, dairy or vegetables?

“This is a practical way of cutting emissions, while supporting local growers and farmers. Those who would oppose this motion are very much open to the accusation of being anti- farming and freedom of choice.”

It comes in the face of several motions passed at other councils across the country, which urge 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.

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 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.

In May 2023, Cornwall Council unanimously voted for a landmark motion which ensures a commitment to local farmers by proactively sourcing local, seasonal produce - explicitly including meat and dairy - at council events.

The council also committed to encouraging residents to ‘shop locally’ and urging them to take advantage of ‘home-grown, affordable, nutritious food’, irrespective of dietary preference.

The following month, the North Northamptonshire Unitary Authority also voted to enact a similar motion, which will see it “promote local produce”, including meat and dairy.