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Cherwell District Council urged by local author to lead on reducing meat & dairy consumption



  • On 17th July 2023 at the Full Council meeting of Cherwell District Council, an award-winning local author and campaigner with Plant-Based Councils [1] presented a petition urging Council to show leadership on the urgent need to reduce meat and dairy consumption.

  • Climate policy everywhere must include food strategy, said Linda Newbery.

  • Both Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council have already passed motions committing to plant-based catering at their meetings and events.

  • The Oxfordshire County Council motion provoked intense media coverage, with Oxfordshire celebrity Jeremy Clarkson condemning it as ‘madness, utter madness’.

  • The petition request will be referred to the appropriate Committee, which will report back to Council.


Cherwell resident Linda Newbery attended a full council meeting of Cherwell District Council on 17th July 2023 [2], to present a petition with 136 signatories and to urge council to use its leaflets and communications to raise awareness of the climate impact of food choices.


In her speech to Council, the author and winner of the Costa Children's book prize emphasised the importance of leadership and example in raising awareness of the impact of food choices and animal agriculture on carbon emissions and biodiversity loss.


She told Council that one of the petition signatories had voluntarily identified himself as a beef and dairy farmer. Local farmers and growers can be supported if residents are encouraged to choosing local, seasonal produce where possible, while buying and consuming less meat overall:


“It’s undeniable that our dependence on animal agriculture must be reduced to protect climate targets and halt catastrophic biodiversity loss. Chatham House, the UN, the International Panel of Experts on Food Sustainability and the government’s own Climate Change Committee agree on this. 14.5% of all human-induced emissions are from livestock (and that’s one of the lower estimates). Currently about 55 per cent by weight of the UK’s production of wheat, barley, and oats, and almost all oilseed rape and maize production, is for animal feed. [3 ]Animal agriculture uses 30% of all drinkable water – ever more pertinent in the face of droughts and rising temperatures - and accounts for 70% of all antibiotics used across the world, creating the serious risk of antimicrobial resistance. Animal husbandry results in huge loss of natural habitats, including rainforests, to provide land for growing animal feed. Animal waste pollutes rivers, and intensive systems can spread viruses that put wild birds and animals as well as humans at risk of new pandemics.


Our current food supply depends on predictability of weather, land use, labour and transport - none of which can be taken for granted. Soaring temperatures such as those in Southern Europe, droughts, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels all contribute to a loss of land for agriculture and the potential failure of staple crops. We urgently need to build resilience into the country’s food system. That can’t be done by prioritising animal feed over food for people.”


She quoted Dr Tim Spectre, leading epidemiologist and founder of the Zoe health app: “Our food choices are the single most important thing we can do for climate change.” Her speech concluded:


“It’s vital that councils and other public bodies take a lead by raising awareness. It’s no longer a question of whether we need to reduce meat and dairy consumption. The question is whether we have the collective will to adapt while there’s still time to make a difference.”


A successful motion was passed at Oxfordshire County Council in 2021 to serve fully plant based food and drink at all catered meetings and events [5 ]. This was followed in March 2023 by a similar motion, unanimously carried, at Oxford City Council. [6 ]


On the day following the Cherwell District Council meeting, NHS doctor and oncologist Dr Sara Lightowlers, also a Plant-Based Councils campaigner, urged Cambridgeshire County Council to do more to raise awareness of the need to switch towards healthy plant-based eating: “Globally around 1 million cancer deaths per year are due to a poor-quality diet. Cancer Research UK states that healthier diets could prevent 50 new cancer cases per day in the UK. Yet the public are unaware of the extent of the impact of diet and lifestyle factors on cancer risk, with less than half knowing that processed red meat is a direct cause of cancer and that fruit and vegetables are protective.” [7]


The Plant-Based Councils campaign believes that local authorities have an opportunity and a duty to lead the way in normalising plant-based eating, which is necessary if we are to tackle the climate emergency. Councils can reduce their own emissions by procuring more plant-based foods, and can address both the health and cost-of-living crises by encouraging residents to adopt healthier and cheaper ways of eating.


ENDS.


Linda Newbery is available for comment or interview: L.newbery@btinternet.com or 01869 337526.


NOTES TO EDITORS:


[1] The Plant-Based Councils campaign aims to address the climate emergency starting with the food on our plates. Working with councils across the UK to encourage them to lead the way in the switch from emission heavy foods to plant-based ones that are better for health, our planet and reducing the impact from the cost of living crisis. https://twitter.com/PBCouncils


[3] Fair Transition Unit report, Reaping the Rewards, July 2023 https://www.ippr.org/files/2023-07/reaping-the-rewards-july23.pdf



[5] Oxfordshire County Council votes to serve fully plant-based food at all council-catered events https://news.oxfordshire.gov.uk/plant-based-food/


[6] Motion to serve fully plant-based food unanimously passed by Oxford City Council https://mycouncil.oxford.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=36124



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