Farmers’ fury as Exeter City Council axes meat products

Farmers in Devon have expressed their outrage following Exeter City Council’s motion to transition to plant-based catering, neglecting the county’s wealth of local livestock producers.

The motion, which received “overwhelming” backing from councillors before Christmas, will see meat and dairy products expelled from all internal catered council meetings – including the upcoming annual general meeting in May.

See also: Fury after Oxfordshire council moves to ban meat and dairy

It will also see plant-based foods promoted at all council-run sites, such as cafes and leisure centres.

The move echoes a similar direction taken by Oxfordshire County Council last year, which announced a ban on all animal products in its catering for full council meetings – something that constituent and TV star Jeremy Clarkson branded “utter madness”.

Cllr Duncan Wood, who is the council’s lead for climate change and first proposed the motion, said: “Climate change means we need to look at everything we do, what changes we can make to reduce carbon emissions and consider food production, transportation and sustainability.

“We aren’t saying people should stop eating meat… we are saying that they could be aware of their choices and that eating more plant-based food is one of the actions they can take.”

Cllr Josie Parkhouse, the lead for leisure and physical activity, added: “This motion is not saying we should all go vegan overnight. It is saying that we should all cut down on our meat consumption for the sake of the planet.”


But the move has fired up local farmers, with the British Farming Union (BFU) quick to submit a letter of complaint to Exeter City Council’s chief executive officer.

Criticising the council for neglecting the produce grown mere miles from the city, it reads: “The whole issue of using plant-based foods flies directly in the face of sustainability.

“Many alternatives to meat consumption are based on products grown from land on the other side of the world, which have had to destroy thousands of acres of rainforest to produce these products.”

Local livestock enterprises provide a large employment base throughout Devon, the letter adds, including across the 10,000 acres of farmland and at the livestock market that are owned by the council.

“In a world that is becoming increasingly short of food, wouldn’t it be prudent to use whatever resources you have on your doorstop, reducing your carbon footprint rather than increasing it?” asks the letter. 

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