Oxfordshire County Council has adopted a vegan-only food policy, which means only plant-based meals will be served at council events and vegan options will be available on school menus.
Ian Middleton from the Green Party said this has put the council “in the history books” and “on the right side of history.”
He told the cabinet: “This has never been about veganism, which is a personal choice, but dealing with climate change is something we should all be choosing to do. This is what climate change action looks like.”
Under these new plans, all food provided at all council catered events and meetings will be “entirely plant-based, and preferably using ingredients sourced from local food surplus organizations.”
‘Utter madness’ says celebrity farmer
The move has been branded “utter madness” by TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who runs a farm in the county.
Making his views heard outside the council headquarters with the support of some other farmers, Mr Clarkson said: “I think people have to have choice. If people want to eat seeds and weeds, fine. If people want to eat meat, fine.”
Clarkson, who owns a farm in Chadlington which features in the TV series Clarkson’s Farm, added:
“It’s the principle of it. You can’t dictate. You might be a vegetarian but you can’t make everyone else a vegetarian just because you are.”
Conservative councillor David Bartholomew called it a “bullying diktat” which sent a “worrying message to farmers everywhere.”
He said: “I respect vegans and their beliefs. I quite like some vegan food, but I abhor being commanded to eat it.
“Why does this administration think it has the right to dictate the diet of its councillors? Where will this authoritarian approach end? Will we soon be told how to dress?”
Councillor Ian Middleton, who put forward the motion for plant-based food at meetings and events, is clear:
“My motion is not anti-farmer, but livestock farming is one of the greatest contributors to climate change.”
Leading by example
Oxfordshire County Council is leading by example by taking meaningful action, despite considerable pressure from meat and dairy farmers.
County councils have the power to make their own decisions about what food to source for their canteens, events, schools, hospitals, and prisons.
Moving to plant-based food is a significant step and one that more councils will no doubt be considering if they take the climate and health crisis seriously.
Which council will be next to make the switch?