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Landmark ruling in Court of Appeal “shouldn’t be necessary”

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

  • In a hearing in the Court of Appeal on 16th June, NGO ‘Feedback’ won the right to a full judicial review of the government’s food strategy.

  • Lawyers are challenging the food strategy on the basis that it failed to include measures to cut carbon emissions by reducing production and consumption of meat and dairy.

  • Both the Climate Change Committee and Henry Dimbleby’s independent review of the national food strategy identified substantial reductions in meat and dairy consumption as being essential to tackle the climate emergency.

  • Plant-Based Councils hails yesterday’s ruling but says it “shouldn’t be necessary”.

Lawyers in the Court of Appeal yesterday argued that the government’s failure to adopt measures to reduce meat and dairy production and consumption in its Food Strategy, published in June 2022, was unlawful.

In what could be a landmark moment in addressing the need to reform our food systems, campaigners have been granted permission to legally challenge the UK government, and will argue that ministers may be acting illegally in not following climate advice.

The Court scheduled a hearing of a day-and-a-half for October 2023, when lawyers acting on behalf of NGO ‘Feedback’ will challenge the government’s food strategy on the basis that it failed to take into account ministers’ duties to cut carbon emissions. The government had argued that DEFRA was not bound by the Climate Change Act of 2008. However, lead judge Lord Justice Lindblom, said:

“We have decided to grant permission to apply for judicial review, having in mind that the case does raise questions of considerable general importance”.

Carina Millstone, chief executive of Feedback, said:

“It’s really high time that the government stops ignoring the advice of its own climate advisers. The Climate Change Committee has been clear that reductions in meat and dairy are a non-negotiable part of all their pathways to net zero. It has called putting in policy measures for this change ‘extremely important’.

“So I’m thrilled that today the judges agreed with our analysis that ignoring the advice of climate change advisers may well be illegal, and I hope it marks the beginning of policymakers in government taking action that may well mitigate climate change in food and farming, rather than continuing to hurl us all towards climate catastrophe.”

The Plant-Based Council Campaign argues that leading the way on meat and dairy reduction and a shift towards a plant-based food system is the logical next step after declaring a climate emergency. In the absence of leadership from the central government, it is calling on councils around the UK to ensure that food provided for internal events is plant-based. On yesterday’s ruling, Tom Gardener, regional coordinator for Plant-Based Councils, said:

“Finally, someone is starting to hold the government to account and get them to listen to the scientific evidence. It shouldn't be necessary for campaign groups like ourselves, Feedback and the Court of Appeal to do all the hard work to force decision makers to listen to the science; in 2023 it should just be common sense.”

A number of councils have pledged a commitment to plant-based catering, with many also developing policies to improve the availability of plant-based options in council-run external sites, such as leisure centres, schools, parks and care homes.

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