Oxfordshire council bans meat and adopts vegan-only menu at meetings

15 March 2022, 20:43

Jeremy Clarkson has called the plans "utter, utter madness"
Jeremy Clarkson has called the plans "utter, utter madness". Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Oxfordshire council has become the first to ban meat and go for a fully vegan menu at council events.

The council said that food served to all of its county councillors at council catered events will be entirely plant-based, despite protests from experts and local farmers, including Jeremy Clarkson.

The council took the decision at a meeting today. All of the council's six annual meetings will have plant-based food only. Vegan options will also be offered on school menus.

The council announced the plans as part of its new food policy, aimed at tackling climate change, reducing food waste and supporting healthy eating.

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Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “As I have reminded people many times I am not a vegan or a vegetarian myself and neither are many of my Cabinet colleagues.

"Nevertheless, I think it is right that we at Oxfordshire County Council will serve plant-based food only at the small number of events that are catered for each year at County Hall.

“There has been a consistent implication over recent months that we are pursuing the idea of plant-based only food at council events because we want everybody to convert to eating only plant-based food.

"That’s a huge over-simplification of what we are doing."

Cllr Leffman added: “In a rural county like Oxfordshire we all have high levels of awareness that farmers and producers face huge challenges on a daily basis. Our support for our local farmers is permanent and will never waver.

“However, it is simplistic to portray that fulsome support for our local farmers as being in some way contradictory to what the council is proposing.

What we all want is high-quality food, which is sustainably produced and sourced locally wherever possible so that our food miles are kept to a minimum and our local economy is supported."

The council explained that at the six meetings of full council each year (for all 63 county councillors) plant-based food only will be served at lunch.

Occasionally, the chair of the council holds events that involve catering and these too will involve plant-based food only, the council said.

The council said it has no plans to require plant-based food only at schools and withdraw other options.

Jeremy Clarkson has called the plans "utter, utter madness".

Speaking outside the council headquarters alongside protesting farmers, Mr Clarkson said: "I think people have to have choice. If people want to eat seeds and weeds, fine. If people want to eat meat, fine."

Mr Clarkson, who has a farm in Chadlington which features in the TV series Clarkson's Farm, added: "It's the principle of it. You might be a vegetarian but you can't make everyone else a vegetarian just because you are."