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Cambridge City Council agrees switch to plant-based food at meetings - but campaigners call for stronger commitment

Additional reporting: Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter

Cambridge City Council has agreed to begin a move towards banning meat and using plant-based catering at its meetings, but campaigners felt its commitments should have been firmer.

Councillors agreed that plant-based food should be served at catered council meetings providing the cost is the same or cheaper than it is currently.

They also pledged to ensure there is at least one plant-based food option at city council-run events where food is served.

The Green Party’s Cllr Hannah Copley, left, brought the original motion
The Green Party’s Cllr Hannah Copley, left, brought the original motion

Suppliers to council-run cafes will also be asked to list plant-based options above meat on their menus.

The decisions followed a motion put forward by the Green Party’s Cllr Hannah Copley (Abbey) to the annual council meeting last Thursday.

But her call for a commitment to bring costed options for fully plant-based catering back to the environment and community scrutiny committee within six months was removed by the ruling Labour group, in favour of no time commitment.

Cll Copley told the meeting there is an “urgent need” to promote and normalise mostly plant-based diets.

Cllr Copley said: “The first reason for that is disproportionate contribution [of meat and dairy] to climate and ecological breakdown.

“It is increasingly recognised that the meat and dairy production is a significant contributor and the livestock sector accounts for 14 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions as well as being a major contributor to global deforestation.

“Plant-based diets have a substantially lower impact in terms of emissions, land use and water use.

“Secondly the livestock industry is a human rights issue. The meat industry relies on people not being able to see how it operates with indigenous people’s land being stolen or destroyed in countries such as Brazil, and cattle ranches and meat packing facilities are known hotspots for modern slavery, with working conditions being dire.”

Cllr Copley warned the livestock industry also has a “huge food waste issue”, highlighting the amount of food that needs to be grown to feed animals farmed for their meat.

She said there are also animal rights issues involved in the livestock industry.

Cllr Copley said: “Plant-based food options are not consistently available at all events or food venues even though plant-based foods are cheaper on average as well as being healthy and nutritious.

“Therefore the food offerings by local government is an excellent place to start to give residents plant based food options.”

An amended motion put forward by Cllr Alex Collis (Lab, King’s Hedges) removed the six-month deadline for preparing the report on fully plant-based food for civic events. The amendment added that the council would “begin” the transition towards plant-based food.

The Green Party councillors wanted the original motion to be supported, but once the amendment was approved, all councillors agreed to pass the motion.

Afterwards, Louise Palmer-Masterton, CEO of Cambridge vegan restaurant business Stem & Glory, told the Cambridge Independent: “While we are pleased that this proposal has been bought on to the agenda - bringing plant-based front of mind within the city council - we were disappointed that the proposal was amended and did not contain the firm commitments we believe are urgently needed.

“Councils everywhere have a huge opportunity to make bold climate commitments and serve as an example to their constituents, which we felt was missed by Cambridge on this occasion.”

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