Rural campaigners have expressed their outrage, calling Edinburgh City Council “anti-farming” after it signed a Plant Based Treaty calling for a transition to vegan diets.
The “treaty”, which is effectively a global petition made up of 38 demands, calls for schools, hospitals and nursing homes to move to plant-based meals, and includes a controversial proposal for a “meat tax” to halt farm expansions and new slaughterhouse developments.
Green Party councillor Steve Burgess, who first introduced the Plant Based Treaty to a full council meeting in 2022, said: “Edinburgh council now has a fantastic opportunity to encourage far more plant-based eating and I look forward to the forthcoming report on how we can do that.”
But the Scottish Countryside Alliance was quick to lodge its complaints, arguing that the treaty neglects the wealth of local food producers close to the city and across Scotland.
Director Jake Swindells said: “It is disappointing to see a city council complicit in pandering to misinformation about livestock farming in Britain, which is among the most sustainable in the world.
“Around 65% of farmland in the UK is best suited to growing grass rather than other crops. If we did not graze livestock on it, we could not use it to produce food.”
The signing of the treaty comes in the same week that cardiovascular pharmacologist Prof Alice Stanton presented key research to the Scottish parliament, arguing that there is little to no evidence to show that red meat is associated with risks to health.
Prof Stanton said: “At least two billion of us worldwide consume enough calories, but dietary quality is inadequate. What is missing are key amino acids, vitamins and minerals, all of which are naturally present in animal-sourced foods.
“If we try to replace nutrient-rich animal-sourced foods with plant-based ultra-processed foods, which are filled with excess calories, sugar, salt and multiple cosmetic additives, we are very likely to harm human health.”
Members of the Scottish parliament have also raised concerns about the treaty, which has been signed for the first time on behalf of a European capital city.
Jim Fairlie, the MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, said: “This decision is a slap in the face for Scotland’s farmers who are doing a fantastic job of producing sustainable food, and are continually adopting updated measures to protect and enhance our countryside.
“Again, the scientific evidence shows that Scotland’s farmers are among the most sustainable in the world.”
Previous signatories of the treaty include Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck and the Haywards Heath town council in West Sussex.