Councilors in Exeter in the UK have voted to promote plant-based food as a means to protect the environment and fight the climate crisis. The city is home to upwards of 130,000 people.
Labour Party representative Duncan Wood proposed the motion, which was “overwhelmingly” supported by other council members.
Wood, who is the Lead Councillor for Climate Change, suggested a widespread promotion of plant-based diets. He did so to raise awareness about how food choices impact the planet.
“As we keep seeing, climate change is real – it’s a fact and we need to do what we can as individuals to address it,” Wood said in a statement.
“There are number of small changes we can all make, one is what we eat. What we eat makes a difference,” he said. “If we are aware of the impact on climate our dietary choices have and what the options are, how our health is affected by what we eat, we can make informed choices.
“There is a shared understanding in society that we should eat less meat. 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.”
The councilor clarified that he is not asking people to stop eating meat entirely. Rather, he hopes they will “be aware of their choices” and reduce intake where possible.
How Exeter will support plant-based living
Exeter City Council will lead by example by implementing significant changes within its own organization.
The council will move towards plant-based catering for all internal meetings and events. This is to be complete by May 2023.
In addition, all external sites managed by the council – including leisure centers, cafes, and restaurants – will offer and clearly label a selection of plant-based food, alongside non-vegan options.
As an extra measure, a cross-party working group is being set up. This will ensure that, where possible, plant-based food is spotlighted and included in all city-wide food provisions. This paves the way to include school meal programs, food banks, and other nutrition-focused initiatives down the track.
Supporting Wood in his motion, councilor Josie Parkhouse said that the move will help Exeter’s green ambitions. The city aims to achieve net zero carbon by 2030.
“This is showing real climate leadership,” she said in a statement.
“The science is clear and we know that we need to start eating less meat as people, as a society and as a planet to help future generations. 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.”
UK cities lean towards vegan food
Exeter is following in the footsteps of other UK councils that aligned with plant-based promotions this year.
A movement designed to help leaders move their municipalities away from a meat-focused food system, the treaty encourages councils to raise awareness of the benefits of plant-based eating and make animal-free foods more accessible to local communities. They are expected to do this through initiatives such as increased vegan meal options in schools and healthcare settings, amongst others.
More comparable to Exeter, which has not formally signed up to the Plant Based Treaty, Oxfordshire County Council is also looking to help its residents embrace a more plant-based diet. It has faced opposition from local farmers but is continuing to prioritize climate action through meat-free promotions.