Rural campaigners hail Belfast Council for rejecting vegan call

Councillors hit back at the motion, who recognised the importance of freedom of choice in diets
Councillors hit back at the motion, who recognised the importance of freedom of choice in diets

Rural campaigners have applauded Belfast City Council for rejecting a call for compulsory veganism at council meetings.

Green Councillor Anthony Flynn proposed a motion which would have required the council to commit to "fully plant-based procurement".

However, other councillors hit back at the motion, who recognised the importance of freedom of choice in diets.

Sinn Féin councillor Ronan McLaughlin said: “I am happy with having options, but this is supposed to be a just transition.

"It is not about forcing people to eat plant-based food, they should be doing it for their own reasons, not because an authority tries to impose it onto them.

"It should be about people making the right choices through an education process, not through a forced process”.

Green councillors claimed enforcing plant-based catering would be in line with the council’s climate change obligations, citing statistics about vegan diets producing less emissions than meat.

However, rural campaigners at the Countryside Alliance Ireland said these statistics rely on global emissions data, which ignore the sustainability of UK farming specifically.

Gary McCartney, director of the group said: “As a number of councils across England and Scotland have voted to ban meat and dairy, it’s great to see this call for compulsory veganism be rejected in Belfast.

"Even with the best intentions, these motions portray a false and dangerous narrative that livestock farming, and meat consumption, is incompatible with tackling climate change.”

He added: “Councils should be using their platforms to promote the excellent, sustainable meat, dairy, and vegetable produce produced in the UK, rather than mandating any one diet.”

It comes after Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire voted earlier this week to recommend serving only vegan food at its events, prompting a backlash from rural campaigners.

The council said the move demonstrated they were “leading by example”, as the 51-member authority strives towards “stopping climate change in its tracks”.

In 2021, Oxfordshire County Council sparked outrage among farmers, including Jeremy Clarkson, when it passed a motion to ban meat and dairy at its events.

Three councils, Edinburgh City Council, Norwich City Council, and Haywards Heath Town Council in Sussex have also signed up to the ‘Plant-Based Treaty’.

It includes a pledge to promote vegan food over animal products. Labour run Enfield Council and Oxford City Council have both voted to ban meat and dairy from their events too.

However, Peterborough, Rutland, Cornwall, Suffolk, Wiltshire, Dorset and Portsmouth council as well as Highland Council in Scotland have all passed opposite motions to defy compulsory veganism campaigns.

They instead commit each authority to supply locally sourced produce- specifically including meat, dairy, and plant-based products- with the aim of reducing food miles to plates.