Oxfordshire County Council under fire for latest vegan promo

Oxfordshire County Council is under fire for suggesting people ditch meat and dairy in favour of vegan meals to help combat climate change.

A new campaign website launched by the local authority suggests people use advice from the Vegan Society to shift to a plant-based diet, to help “slow climate change, rein in habitat loss, and regenerate the health of our planet”.

The council was criticised by Jeremy Clarkson and other Oxfordshire farmers earlier this year for voting to only serve vegan food at council-catered events.

See also: Council’s vegan decision a ‘kick in the teeth’ for farmers

Now the Countryside Alliance has written to the county’s five district leaders asking them to remove their support for the “climate action Oxfordshire” website.

The rural campaign group said the vegan promotion was a snub to Oxfordshire’s livestock farmers who are producing meat and dairy using systems which are among the most sustainable in the world.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “No council, especially one that allegedly supports our farmers, should have anything to do with a website that seeks to undermine their hard work.

“Challenging assumptions about the benefits of some plant-based products and the casual denigration of livestock farming matters, because if they are allowed to go unchallenged, they threaten the sustainability of both the planet and the countryside.”

Council response

Oxfordshire County Council said its thoughts on plant-based food align with the government’s National Food Strategy, which recommends people should reduce meat consumption.

A spokesman said: “A recent survey conducted by the Oxfordshire councils and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership showed that local residents share the council’s concerns about climate change and feel the need to contribute to tackling it.

“We simply want to help people who want to make changes to help tackle climate change by making suggestions as to how they can do so. Helping tackle climate change is a key priority for Oxfordshire County Council.”

Plant-based treaty 

Meanwhile, in West Sussex, the town council in Haywards Heath has become the first council in Europe to sign the Plant Based Treaty,  an international campaign promoting a shift to plant-based diets.

The treaty’s demands include a ban on the building of new livestock farms or slaughterhouses in the area, and a requirement to promote a switch to plant-based foods.

Green councillor Richard Nicholson said: “The climate crisis is no longer a distant future threat, but an existential crisis that is upon us in 2022.

“We cannot wait for governments, we must all act immediately, and moving to a plant-based diet is the most impactful thing any individual can do to help address the grave situation we face.” 

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