Tameside Council is encountering disapproval from the Countryside Alliance (CA) over purportedly endorsing veganism in a recent media release supporting Veganuary. The CA is urging the council to reconsider its position, emphasizing the importance of preserving freedom of choice and supporting local farmers.
The controversy unfolded when the council issued a statement on January 4, encouraging residents to participate in Veganuary, a campaign promoting a plant-based diet for January. The release suggested that adopting a plant-based lifestyle could contribute to reducing air, soil, and water pollution, as well as conserving natural resources compared to meat and fish consumption.
A spokesperson for the council stated, “It is crucial that as consumers, we do what we can to help support the environment, as it’s considered the single most effective contribution an individual can make to protect the planet. So, we encourage everyone to make the switch for the month or to try and make greener choices where they can.”
Despite the council’s assertion that it was presenting an option for a common New Year’s resolution, the CA strongly disagreed, labelling the claims as ‘simplistic’ and potentially misleading to residents. The alliance argued that such assertions could pose a threat to British farmers, overlooking the nuances of UK-specific food production.
A representative from the CA expressed disappointment, saying, “British farmers are part of the solution to climate change, not part of the problem. The UK agricultural sector is pioneering regenerative farming techniques that reduce emissions and increase biodiversity.”
The CA further emphasized that British meat is among the most sustainable globally, thanks to the efficiency of local farmers. The representative criticized Tameside Council, stating, “It is disappointing to see a Council ignore these efforts and regurgitate lazy claims. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council should use its platform to promote the excellent meat, dairy, and vegetable produce of the North West region, rather than spreading tenuous claims about the benefits of plant-based diets or endorsing any one diet for its residents.”
In response, a council spokesperson refuted the claims made by the CA, stating, “Unfortunately, the Countryside Alliance has misrepresented our message and has misquoted our statement.” The spokesperson clarified that the council is not urging people to go vegan but is instead encouraging individuals to be more conscious of the impact of their choices on both health and the environment. Veganuary, according to the council, is just one opportunity for residents to explore different ways of making sustainable choices.
The spokesperson highlighted the original statement, saying, “What was said in our statement was that ‘it is crucial that as consumers, we do what we can to help support the environment, as it’s considered the single most effective contribution an individual can make to protect the planet.’ So, we are suggesting that people can make the biggest difference by considering their choices and doing what they can to help support the environment.”
Tameside Council emphasized that it supports various campaigns encouraging people to consider sustainable practices, such as active travel, and clarified that the promotion of plant-based foods for a month is merely a suggestion for residents to explore different ways of supporting their health and the environment.
The controversy in Tameside is part of a broader national debate, with the Countryside Alliance leading a ‘rural fightback’ against the enforcement of compulsory veganism at events and the signing of a ‘Plant-Based Treaty’ by some councils. Notably, councils such as Dorset, Fenland, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Cornwall, and North Northamptonshire have voted in favour of the alliance’s motion, showing support for local farmers and the sourcing of locally-produced meat and dairy at their events.
As the debate intensifies, the role of local councils in influencing dietary choices and supporting regional agriculture remains a contentious issue. Tameside Council’s experience highlights the challenges faced by local authorities in balancing environmental concerns with the interests of the farming community and individual choices.