Oxford butchers and a farmer have criticised the “kneejerk reaction” to ban meat from council meetings.

The motion, put forward by Labour Party councillor Paula Dunne, follows in the footsteps of Oxfordshire County Council in banning meat from council meetings.

At a full Oxford City Council meeting on Monday, 20 March, the council unanimously voted in favour of “following Oxfordshire County Council’s lead by ensuring that food provided for internal councillor events are entirely plant based”.

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Oxfordshire County Council was the first council to ban meat and only serve vegan food at their meetings from December 2021.

At the time, there was a fierce backlash from Oxfordshire farmers and Jeremy Clarkson branded the policy “utter, utter madness”.

Putting forward the case for the motion, Mx Dunne said: “In the UK we eat twice as much meat and dairy as the global average, which is not sustainable on a finite planet, as there is not enough land in the world to meet this demand.

“The rate at which we are eating meat and dairy is the leading cause of modern species extinctions.”

Oxford Mail: Meat at Alden ButchersMeat at Alden Butchers (Image: Matthew Alden)

Matthew Alden, the managing director of the 230-year-old Alden Butchers, called the decision a “kneejerk reaction” and said it was “very easy to have a negative view about meat”.

He said: “I’m not against veganism but this won’t suit everybody.

“Meat leads to the employment of a huge amount of people up and down the country.

“As butchers we do a lot for conservation.”

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Mr Alden said whether people chose to eat meat was about “free choice”.

Oxford Mail: Matthew Alden on the left, with Richard Alden on the rightMatthew Alden on the left, with Richard Alden on the right (Image: Matthew Alden)

Aldens Meatmaster employs 100 staff and Mr Aldens highlighted that if farming is done correctly then it can “help the diversity of the fields and nature”.

Mr Alden said meat was part of Britain’s “culture and countryside” and he questioned “whether it “was better to eat fresh and regional meat than fruit which comes from halfway across the world?”

Oxford Mail: Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here (Image: Newsquest)

Oxford Mail: Alden Butchers van in OxfordAlden Butchers van in Oxford (Image: Matthew Alden)

Steven Wright, who works at J.E.Pill Butchers on Balfour Road, echoed Mr Aldens’ sentiment and said the council’s attitude to cutting out meat was going to mean “thousands are going to lose their jobs including us lot as well”.

He added: “It should be equal standards.

“There are still people out there who love meat.”

During the meeting, councillor Anna Railton said it was the council’s responsibility to “encourage our residents to look at their own diets and reduce their meat and dairy consumption”.

She added: “We don’t need a handful of people like ourselves being vegan, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

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The council has promised they will “encourage” farmers to move to “more sustainable plant-based produce”.

An Oxford farmer, who wished to remain anonymous due to the fear of a backlash, accused the council of not “supporting local farmers or people’s free choice”.

They revealed: “Everywhere you go you must have a vegetarian option in menus so what about the people who want to eat meat.

“Farmers are doing all they can for the environment."

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This farmer has around 300 sheep and just over 1,000 pigs.

They were worried about speaking out as it was a “delicate topic” and they did not want any “antis” coming to their farm.

Oxford City Council has agreed to “work with local farmers to support, promote, and encourage their move to create more sustainable plant-based produce, and recognises the benefits of sourcing food locally from producers who follow sustainable principles”.