AHDB challenges council’s meat and dairy ban in open letter

Protests have taken place since the council announced controversial plans to enforce a vegan menu at its meetings and events, and to encourage local schools to provide more plant-based meals.

AHDB CEO Tim Rycroft has written to Oxfordshire County Council over its plans to ban meat and dairy from council events.

Writing to councillor Liz Leffman, Mr Rycroft said that while he sympathises with efforts to tackle climate change, banning meat and dairy based on the global impact of livestock production fails to take into account the UK’s significantly lower impacts.

While UN’s FAO report from 2013 gives the global figure for emissions from livestock at 14.5%, the most accurate figure for the UK is 6%.

The carbon footprint of milk produced in the UK is nearly a third lower than the global average.

Mr Rycroft noted that 65% of our agricultural land in the UK is grassland and meadows and cannot support food crops, but is ideal for grazing animals. He also pointed out the nutritional benefits of meat and dairy in a healthy balanced diet.

He urged the councillor to consider his points at the council cabinet meeting, taking place today (15th March), where the measures will be considered for approval.

Since the council announced its plans at the end of last year, citing concerns over climate change, a protest was held on 8th February at Oxford’s County Hall, where farmers said the local authority should be supporting local produce.

Speaking at the protest, Richard Binning, a beef farmer from Steventon, is quoted by BBC News as saying: “The message they are sending out is really dangerous – they are suggesting it is ok to eat avocados from Brazil, instead of our wholesome British beef.

“There are new environmental measures coming out from central government and the National Farmers Union have made an environmental pledge, so we are doing our bit – and eating local is a really important part of that.”

Oxfordshire farmer Jeremy Clarkson waded into the row on Twitter, describing the decision as ‘Madness. Utter madness.’

He wrote: ‘Farmers of Oxfordshire. I wish I’d know about your protest today. I’d have been there like a shot,’ and added in a further tweet: ‘Why are liberal democrats always Stalinists?’

Leader of the council Liz Leffman defended the decision, and is quoted as saying: “This is about councillors taking a stand and saying we want to make our planet more sustainable, make agriculture more sustainable and we will source that produce locally wherever we can.”

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