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Local resident calls on Devon County Council to prioritise plant-based food options

  • On 07/09/23 at the Full Council of Devon County Council, a local resident and supporter of the Plant-Based Councils campaign [1] urged the council to acknowledge the impact of animal products on the climate, and to prioritise plant-based options within public sector catering in Devon.

  • This follows Exeter City Council’s vote last year to promote the benefits of plant-based food, following councils in Oxfordshire, Cambridge and Norwich City.

  • Also this week, academics from Exeter University backed a campaign for 100% plant-based food on university campuses.

Topsham resident, Catherine Sleigh, attended a full council meeting for Devon County Council on Thursday 07/09/23 [2], to talk about the impact of animal products on the climate.

Mrs Sleigh gave a representation at the meeting at the council offices on Topsham Road, requesting that the council follows other councils around the country in promoting the benefits of healthy plant-based eating, which she says is the logical and necessary next step after having declared a climate emergency.

Mrs Sleigh, a homeopath who runs a practice in Topsham, said that she had written to all councillors recently asking the Council to acknowledge the huge contribution that meat, fish and dairy make on the climate and ecological crisis. She said there was an urgent need to increase plant-based choices wherever Devon County Council has an opportunity.

In her representation, she said:

“Scientists say that cutting animal products out of our diet is the single biggest way to reduce our impact on the planet. The amount of research over the years concluding this is now frankly overwhelming.”

Mrs Sleigh acknowledged the importance of the large farming and fishing community in Devon, and said that farmers deserve to be supported better:

“Genuinely supporting farmers means looking honestly at the future and recognising where change is necessary. At the moment, farmers are forced to keep doing what they are doing by subsidies, but continuing with the status quo is a betrayal : we need to support them to grow vegetables and crops and rewild in order to give them financial security and ourselves food security.”

Mrs Sleigh urged Devon County Council to prioritise plant-based options in all public catering:

“It is not always easy to find plant-based options in cafes, public buildings and schools. Whilst not asking people to make individual dietary changes, we still urgently need to provide plenty of choice and availability of healthy, plant-based food. The Council has the opportunity – and I think, the duty – to simply prioritise plant-based food options wherever they can and treat the climate emergency with the urgency it requires.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Sleigh said:

“I was pleased at the warm welcome I received at Devon County Council today and am hopeful of seeing some positive changes in the future”.

Plant-Based Councils 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 and ecological emergencies. 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.

This week, 650 academics [3] have called on British universities to adopt 100% plant-based catering to fight the climate emergency. Almost 20 academics from Exeter University were amongst the signatories of the Open Letter to university Vice Chancellors.

In December last year, Exeter City Council [4] 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. A similar motion carried at Oxford City Council [5] earlier this year asked the council to 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.


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[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.

[2] Devon County Council, meeting of Full Council 7th Sept 2023: agenda and recording

Public representation recording

[3] Open Letter to University Vice Chancellors signed by 650 academics

[4] Exeter City Council votes to serve 100% plant-based food at catered meetings

[5] Motion on Plant-Based Food and Sustainable Farming, Oxford City Council

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