Exmouth Town Council has come under fire by the Countryside Alliance for its recent decision to endorse a vegan campaign.

The council announced its support for the Plant Based Treaty – an initiative, the Countryside Alliance claims is an 'activist-promoted manifesto' that lists a range of sweeping 'demands' for organisations.

The Countryside Alliance said "The treaty involves running propaganda campaigns advocating veganism and taking meat and dairy off catering menus in schools, hospitals, and care homes."

The council will incorporate the Treaty as part of its Climate Action Plan, designed to counter the climate crisis and turn the local community into a zero-carbon society. It supported its decision with several statistics about plant-based diets resulting in ‘fewer emissions’ and ‘decreasing wildlife destruction’.

However, the Countryside Alliance said these claims are misleading, as they appear to rely on global statistics about livestock farming and ignore the nuances of UK-specific food production. The organisation argues British meat, thanks to the efficiencies of our farmers, is among the most sustainable in the world. Therefore, promoting veganism not only misleads residents, but poses an ‘attack to British farmers altogether, who work tirelessly to produce nutritious, affordable, and sustainable food for our populace’.

Supporting the treaty, Green Party Councillor Louise Venables said: "Switching to an increasingly plant-based diet is the simplest and one of the most effective actions we can take to reduce our carbon emissions. Plant-based diets can also improve health, remedy biodiversity, improve animal welfare, and be financially beneficial.”

The Alliance disputed claims that vegan diets improve health, highlighting a study from Professor Christ Elliot, a leading food scientist at Queen’s University in Belfast, who has warned that many plant-based substitute meats are of little nutritional value. He believes profit is the main driver of plant-based products, rather than health or environmental concerns.

Sabina Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, said: “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. It is disappointing to see councils ignoring these efforts and regurgitating lazy claims”.

“Exmouth Town Council should be using its platforms to promote the excellent meat, dairy, and vegetable produce of the South West, rather than spreading tenuous claims about the benefits of plant-based diets or encouraging any one diet for its residents.”

The Plant-Based Treaty involves promoting the benefits of supporting local farmers & growers by encouraging residents to shop locally, while ensuring meat and dairy remains available on council menus.

In response to these claims by the Countryside Alliance, Zoey Cooper, climate and ecological officer at Exmouth Town Council said: "Exmouth Town Council has endorsed a descoped and bespoke version of the Plant Based Treaty that it deemed appropriate and achievable for Exmouth. This version does not include any of the x10 land-use recommendations (for example: no building of new animal farms) which are clearly outside of Exmouth Town Council's jurisdiction. 

Exmouth Town Council aims to promote a good understanding of how diet impacts climate change. Choosing to sometimes replace meat with vegetarian or plant-based options, is one of several ways in which we are empowered to reduce our carbon footprint. Exmouth Town Council will inform and engage the community on the environmental advantages and health benefits of plant-based and vegetarian food, nutrition and cooking. 

Exmouth Town Council's Plant-Based Treaty also supports nature-based solutions, local-growing schemes and projects that provide access to healthy food for all."