On 21/06/23 at the Full Council meeting of Lancaster City Council, three local residents and supporters of the Plant-Based Councils campaign asked the council to ensure that all food and drink provided at council meetings and events is plant-based, as the logical and necessary next step after declaring a climate emergency.
Among them was local doctor Charlotte Houltram, returning to the council one year after asking a similar question, who spoke of the health risks of meat consumption.
A response was given by Council Leader Philip Black.
The question to Lancaster City Council follows decisions by other city councils such as Oxford, Cambridge and Exeter, as well as Oxfordshire County Council, to prioritise and promote plant-based catering.
A local doctor has returned to ask Lancaster City Council to show leadership on the climate and health crises by encouraging a shift towards plant-based eating, almost one year after making a similar request of the council and seeing little progress.
Dr Charlotte Houltram, a Consultant Anaesthetist within the NHS, attended Wednesday’s Full Council meeting at Morecambe Town Hall with another local resident, asking the council to demonstrate its commitment to its climate responsibilities by ensuring that food provided for council events is plant-based.
In asking that the council follows other councils around the country in promoting healthy, plant-based eating as the logical and necessary step after declaring a climate emergency, Dr Houltram said:
“Almost a full year ago now, I came here to ask this council to demonstrate its commitment to its climate responsibilities by ensuring food provided for council events is plant-based. Since then, city councils in Exeter, Oxford, Norwich and Winchester have joined Cambridge in ensuring that their own catering is as climate friendly as possible. Despite receiving a positive response to my question, I am not aware that Lancaster City Council has made any progress on the issue”.
Dr Houltram went to on talk about the health implications of high meat consumption:
“In the UK, we eat excessive quantities of animal products, including twice the global average of meat … As a doctor, I see the consequences of this every single day … It's rare I see any patient who doesn't have a diet related condition (most have several) such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, diverticulitis, heart attacks, strokes or several types of cancer. Patients are overfed and undernourished with severe micronutrient deficiencies being commonplace. Over 9 out of 10 people don’t meet the government recommended minimum fibre intake. We need to eat more plants!”.
Dr Houltram was joined by Pete Bailey, a retired nurse, who made a similar request of the council. He said:
“A proposal to make council meetings plant-based is not really about telling people what to do, it's the council showing responsible leadership & demonstrating practical action that's easily achievable on the climate situation, which is something that, following the 2019 declaration [of climate emergency], the council is already committed to. The council could easily lead the way by improving & increasing plant-based options in council run public venues. It's only when caterers make public options available that people can exercise real choice.”
In his response to the questions, council leader Phillip Black emphasised the negative impact of animal farming on the environment:
“The rearing of cattle, in particular, has an extraordinary impact on our environment, including deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution. Cattle are also extremely resource intensive, with each head of cattle consuming thousands of litres of fresh water and tons of feed, which can include grain and other materials suitable for human consumption”.
Councillor Black continued:
“All of those asking questions of us today have challenged us to consider the important role that food plays in our ambition to tackle climate change. I would say to you that we are very much alive to that issue and we have been for some time.”
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. It argues that 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.
Campaigners for Plant-Based Councils have asked similar questions at councils around the country, resulting in motions being carried by a number of councils such as Exeter City Council  which, in December last year, voted to serve only plant-based foods at council meetings and events. Exeter City Council also plans to introduce more plant-based options onto menus at council-run external sites such as leisure centres, and to showcase plant-based foods at external events.
In March this year, councillors on Oxford City Council unanimously supported a motion  which will ensure that all food provided in internal catering is plant-based. The council will also work with local farmers to support their move to create more plant-based produce, and establish a plant-based free food service, to help tackle the cost of living crisis.
This follows the successful motion that was passed at Oxfordshire County Council  in 2021 to serve fully plant based food and drink at all catered meetings and events
The questions to Lancaster City Council also come just a week after campaigners won the right to a full judicial review  of the Government’s food strategy. The legal challenge has been launched by lawyers acting on behalf of NGO Feedback, in response to the government’s failure to adopt measures to reduce meat and dairy production and consumption, which they argue fails to take into account ministers’ duties to cut carbon emissions.
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
 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.
 Exeter City Council votes to serve 100% plant-based food at catered meetings https://news.exeter.gov.uk/council-pledges-to-raise-awareness-of-the-benefits-of-plant-based-food/
 Oxford City Council unanimously supports motion on plant-based food & sustainable farming: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/23401386.oxford-city-council-approves-vegan-food-policy
 Oxfordshire County Council votes to serve fully plant-based food at all council-catered events https://news.oxfordshire.gov.uk/plant-based-food/
 Campaigners win right to challenge England’s food strategy over climate crisis: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/16/campaigners-win-right-challenge-england-food-strategy-climate-crisis