FARMERS have spoken out against plans for the council to only serve vegan food at its events.

In December, Green Councillor Ian Middleton tabled a motion to ensure that all food provided at Oxfordshire County Council’s events would be ‘entirely plant base’.

The motion also seeks to see more plant-based menus available on school lunch menus for 'at least two days per week' - it hopes to encourage students to 'be empowered' when making food choices at schools.

The motion was passed and is set to go to Cabinet for the final decision in the spring.

The decision to ‘go vegan’, however, has angered local farmers and suppliers, who met this morning outside County Hall to protest against the motion.

David Pill, who runs a farm near Wantage, joined the Oxfordshire Food and Farmers Rally in order ‘to give the freedom of choice for the councillors to choose what they eat’.

He said: “I think veganism is a choice.

“We are not telling you to eat meat – of course, that would be wrong - but in the same breath they can’t tell their councillors and everyone that they’ve got to eat a vegan diet.

“People look up to Oxfordshire County Council, and with this motion in place, it could have a rippling effect later down the line.

“All of us farmers are worried about the effect this will have on us and that is why we are here today.”

The motion was put in place to show that the council recognises 'that meat and dairy' has a 'significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and global deforestation'.

Hannah Dorling, who is a member of the National Farmers Union, was one of the protestors outside county hall today.

She said: “We understand that the councillors' are looking towards the Government’s Net-Zero goal, and that they have been encouraged to reduce meat and dairy consumption by a fifth by 2025, but we just feel that local, seasonal produce has been overlooked.

“We have some excellent Oxfordshire producers in the area that could produce food that does not have to travel far – and unfortunately, although we understand the vegan choice, sometimes importing those foods results in a lot of air miles, which goes against the council’s goal.”

Johnnie and Dudley Alden, who run Hollands Farm Beef in Great Milton, thought the motion sent a ‘bad message’.

Mr Johnnie Alden said: “The message the decision by the council gives out is that other people may see that as a directive, as a policy, that meat-eating is always bad for the environment and that it’s not possible to combine all types of food into a healthy sustainable diet.”

Yet the councillors who voted for the motion believe it is a necessary step for the council to reach its climate goals.

Mr Middleton, who tabled the motion, said it was ‘nice to meet some local farmers’ at the protest but insisted the aim of the vegan motion was not to damage local suppliers.

He said: “This Protest has been concocted by Conservative Councillors as an anti-farming motion, which is very much isn’t.

“A very small part of the motion asked for the food provided at Oxfordshire County Council events to be vegan."

The councillor argued that much of the motion focused on improving education on sustainable food choices in schools across the county.

He added: “The reason behind this part of the motion is because it has been shown that vegan and dairy products globally produce 24 per cent of global greenhouse emissions.

“This does not mean we are against local and small-scale farmers – they are part of the solution to the problem – and there’s nothing to say I am forcing everyone to be vegan, far from it, but what we are saying is that for the meals to be provided by the council to be vegan.

“This council is trying to reduce its emissions, and it’s slightly hypocritical of us to then add to the problem by providing food that we know adds to climate change.”

Conservative Councillor, David Bartholomew, tabled an amendment to the motion when it was first proposed.

Mr Bartholomew suggested to the administration, that while vegan options should always be available, it should not be the only choice.

Speaking at the protest to the Oxford Mail he said: “There should always be a vegan option available, but it shouldn’t be rammed down people’s throats.

“Unfortunately, my amendment failed, which is why we are now in the situation where a vegan diet will be compulsory at council catered events.

“I actually quite like vegan food but I abhor being forced to eat it.”

The Tory Councillor added that he hopes on March 24 the ‘green mist’ that has ‘descended’ on the administration, will ‘evaporate’ and the council will not carry on with the plans.

He added: “Veganism is a choice to be respected, but it must be a choice - the way forward is through education and choice not through dictate.”