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North Northants Council rejects sustainable farming motion instead votes to promote meat consumption



  • On 22/06/23 at the Full Council meeting of North Northamptonshire Council [1], councillors debated a motion on support for farmers proposed by Conservative Councillor Scott Brown and supported by the Countryside Alliance.

  • Councillors from the Labour and Green groups strongly spoke against the motion.

  • A unifying amendment asking council to “support, promote & encourage their [farmers] move towards creating more sustainable produce” was tabled by Green Party Councillor Emily Fedrorwycz, but rejected by the Conservative majority.

  • The motion comes just a week after a legal challenge to the UK Government was accepted [2], 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.

  • Previously, councils such as Oxfordshire County, and city councils in Cambridge, Oxford and Exeter have voted to ensure that all food provided at council events is plant-based.


Yesterday (22/6/23), councillors from Labour and Green groups on North Northamptonshire Council opposed moves to encourage consumption of meat in the midst of a climate and wildlife emergency. Studies from the Met Office have shown that farmers will be put under additional stress due to climate change, and councils need to be doing everything they can to support their long-term success [3].


A motion brought to the Council by Conservative Councillor Scott Brown, and supported by the hunting and shooting lobby group the Countryside Alliance, asked people to reduce the “food miles” on their plates without actually addressing what the food on their plates is. Studies have shown that what we eat is vastly more important than where it comes from [4]. Plant-based Councils believe the gold standard that should be promoted is local and seasonal plant-based produce.


Earlier in the meeting, Rzyna Garner, 50, a Social Worker from Northamptonshire and supporter of the Plant-Based Councils campaign, submitted a question to the Full Council, asking:


“Given the climate and wildlife emergencies, and the need to reduce emissions and increase food security, will this Council agree to ensure that all food and drink provided and promoted at future internal events are those with the lowest impact on the climate and environment, as other councils have done?”


In response, Conservative Councillor Harriet Pentland said:


"North Northamptonshire Council is committed to being carbon neutral by 2030. In order to do this we will consider all opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint, through our own activities & that of our supply chain. ... we will consider all viable opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of the food and drink on offer”.


Despite this response, Conservative councillor King Lawal later said:


"In which world would I ever support forcing bugs and plants down the throats of my constituents? … I say, support our farmers, support chicken and meat consumption as much as humanly possible”.


The Plant-Based Councils Campaign strongly encourages support for farmers, but it is clear from the science that in order for our food to be sustainable, substantial reductions in meat and dairy consumption and production are essential, and help transitioning towards plant-based food production must be provided.


Councillor Pentland indicated at the meeting that councillors and officers have been on Carbon Literacy Training [5], which covers in detail the issues around animal agriculture and the need to reduce it, and this motion was a perfect opportunity to put their training into practice.


Increasing livestock and dairy farming will not enhance the local countryside, on the contrary it has been found to contribute to a number of issues on top of increased emissions: water pollution, zoonotic disease risks, increased water demand, deforestation and biodiversity loss [6]. With news recently released that we have a 66% chance of passing 1.5 degrees over the next 4 years, meaningful action has never been more urgent [7].


The North Northamptonshire Council motion comes just a week after campaigners won the right to a full judicial review of the Government’s food strategy [2]. 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. If successful, it will force central government to rewrite its food strategy.


Motions to promote and encourage plant-based eating have been debated by councils across the UK and motions have been carried by progressive councils such as city councils in Exeter, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich, with some councils voting to ensure food provided at council meetings and events is plant-based. [8]


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.


Word Count: 820


For more information or further comments, please contact plantbasedcouncils@gmail.com



NOTES TO EDITORS:



[1] Full Council 22/06/23 meeting documents Agenda Recording of meeting


[2] Campaigners win right to challenge England’s food strategy over climate crisis:








[8]

Exeter City Council votes to ensure that all food and drink provided at catered meetings is 100% plant-based: https://news.exeter.gov.uk/council-pledges-to-raise-awareness-of-the-benefits-of-plant-based-food/

Oxfordshire County Council votes to ensure all food provided at council catered events is fully plant-based: https://news.oxfordshire.gov.uk/plant-based-food/


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