DESPITE the presence of Jeremy Clarkson and fellow farmers outside the county hall, councillors have voted to serve plant-based meals at its meetings.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet voted in favour of officers’ recommendations to ensure that food provided at full council meetings and all civic events is entirely plant-based.

Currently there are seven meetings of full council each year – meetings for all 63 county councillors.

The council currently provides school meals to around 14 per cent of Oxfordshire schools – all of them primary schools. At schools, plant-based options will be on the menu for part of the week.

LIVE UPDATES: County council to make decision on vegan-only food at meetings

Councillor Ian Middleton, who put forward the motion for plant-based food at meetings, said: “My motion is not anti-farmer, but livestock farming is one of the greatest contributors to climate change.”

The cabinet heard from a variety of speakers, including local author Linda Newbery, who said: “I’d like to congratulate the council for taking this forward-thinking step in tackling the climate emergency.

“This plant-based motion doesn’t threaten farmers.

“Oxfordshire County Council is leading the way and other councils are sure to follow.”

Tim Bearder, cabinet member for highway management, said: “I grew up in a village and I represent an entirely rural community, farmers have knowledge and are hard-working but this Government has created an industry that is entirely based on profit.

“Jeremy Clarkson was here outside this morning and I watched his series, he reiterates how difficult farming is.”

The council’s deputy leader, Liz Brighouse, outlined how the motion needs to lead to a conversation on ‘food justice’ for children.

She said: “One of the biggest issues around school meals is uptake.

“In this paper, only 14 per cent of our schools use this service so the percentage of children we’re responsible for feeding is very small.

“Let’s talk about food justice and the children in this county who are living in poverty.”

Read also: Jeremy Clarkson says he would feed vegans the potato scraped off a shepherd’s pie

Pete Sudbury, cabinet member for climate change delivery and environment, told councillors: “Nobody is forcing anything down people’s throats.

“There are two main justifications for this motion: the health of our planet and the health of our people.

“Oxfordshire’s farmers are part of the solution, not the problem.”

Councillor David Bartholomew spoke against the motion, saying: “I abhor being commanded to eat it – why does this administration seek to restrict choice?

“Now, big brother or big sister wants to instruct us to what we put in our bodies.

“The wall of negative publicity I’m pleased has had some impact.”

Ahead of asking cabinet to vote, council leader Liz Leffman said: “We need to support our local farmers but make sure food production is sustainable.

“I’m really pleased we’ve been able to stimulate this debate, it’s brought Oxfordshire into the spotlight.

“It’s shone a spotlight on the importance of sustainability.”


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