Councillors vote against having plant-based lunch to celebrate ‘Veganuary’

Tuesday January 9th 2024

Edinburgh-City-Chambers


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

Edinburgh councillors have voted against being served a plant-based lunch to celebrate ‘Veganuary’ – as one feared it would take pies off the menu.

It comes as the local authority sets out how it plans to cut meat and dairy consumption in schools and council buildings in a bid to meet its climate targets, after Edinburgh became the first European capital to sign up to the global ‘Plant-Based Treaty’ initiative last year.

Actions agreed include ensuring council canteens “always include plant-based options including plant-based milk” and allowing pupils to “take any fresh (uncooked) left-overs from the counter back home at the end of the day to reduce food waste”.

However Green group co-convener Ben Parker said councillors were “completely missing” from the plan as it was discussed at the Policy and Sustainability Committee today.

He called on elected members to lead by example by tucking into a vegan meal in celebration of ‘Veganuary’ – which challenges people to eat plant-based for 30 days – when they are next served lunch at their end of month meeting.

Cllr Parker said he was unsure whether councillors should be catered for at all, adding: “For as long as for it is going to be catered, let’s make sure we’re making that for positive reasons.

“This is just one minor thing elected members can do to throw our weight behind the campaign and eat plant-based at one full council meeting a year – it’s not that difficult.”

Conservative councillor Phil Doggart jokingly said he was worried this would mean members would not be able to enjoy the pies usually provided “which I know most of us love”.

He said: “It would be a great hardship for many of us. Highlight of the month, because I certainly don’t get a pie at home.”

An addendum tabled by the Greens for catering at February’s full council meeting to be all plant-based was backed by the SNP however was voted down by Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem members.

Following the vote, Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang said on X councillors were “through the looking glass”.

He wrote: “We have a housing emergency, a cost of living crisis, and a multi-million pound black hole facing the council…and we literally spent time today at committee debating what the council should be served for lunch next month.”

The Plant-Based Treaty was launched at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 as part of a drive to reduce greenhouse emissions from farming and agriculture and it has since seen more than 20 local authorities across the world sign up.

Cllr Iain Whyte, Conservative group leader, said work to draw up plans in line with the Treaty was “taking up a lot of officer time”.

He said: “We’re very conscious that the council has very little money.”

Labour council leader Cammy Day said he recognised the authority had “other priorities” but highlighted that joining the initiative “does add to one of our priorities about getting to net zero”.

Cllr Parker said: “We’re very pleased with the action plan and absolutely look forward to its integration with wider food strategies as well.”

A report before members at the meeting said this action plan did not seek to “eliminate meat and dairy served by the council or in the city” but rather to “continue the focus on high quality, sustainable food and increase reliance on locally sourced products where possible”.

It added: “This plan needs to be viewed in the context of the Council’s wider food agenda which includes tackling food poverty, ensuring living wage suppliers in the food industry, promoting food careers, reducing unnecessary plastic packaging and promoting food redistribution to avoid food waste.”

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