Dorset County Council has chosen to ignore calls to ditch meat and dairy from all official buildings and events and instead, passed a motion that it says prioritizes farmers, food security, and freedom of choice.
While other councils across the UK–including Oxfordshire and Enfield–have opted for 100% plant-based catering at their events, Dorset is taking a different route, to the delight of local farmers.The newly approved motion focuses on supporting struggling farmers, encouraging residents to shop local, and minimising regulations on the agricultural industry. This flies directly in the face of the Plant Based Treaty, which asks councils to set an example and to remove meat and dairy from menus, due to their staggering climate impact.
Supporters of the pro-meat motion highlighted what they consider to be the precarious state of farmers, emphasising the importance of food security and the local producers’ commitment to ‘high environmental and welfare standards’. The decision also resonated with Mo Metcalf-Fisher, director of external affairs for the Countryside Alliance, who called it a “fantastic result for common sense, freedom of choice, and farmers across Dorset.”
The Dorset council’s motion is in stark contrast to Oxfordshire council’s in 2021, where a proposed ban on meat and dairy sparked outrage among professional farmers and local smallholding owner Jeremy Clarkson. At the time, Oxfordshire council stated that it passed the motion, put forward by a member of the Green Party, for the “health of our planet and the health of our people.”
Despite Dorset’s refusal to sign up to the Plant Based Treaty, the initiative continues to gain momentum. In the UK, Haywards Heath, Norwich, Edinburgh, and London’s Lambeth councils have all pledged their support. Despite opponents to the programme stating that it removes choice from people’s plates, council employees are free to eat meat and dairy but need to supply their own. All catering services however–including those within council buildings and at events–will prioritise plant-based foods.