Campaign group urges council to serve only plant-based food

Louisa Hillwood

Louisa Hillwood. Photograph: Plant-Based Councils

Environmental campaigners have renewed calls for council bosses to stop serving meat and fish at events to help reduce carbon emissions.

Louisa Hillwood from the Plant-based Councils campaign first asked Hackney Council to switch to plant-based catering when she spoke to politicians last year.

The Hackney resident returned to the council chamber to ask about progress: “In October 2022 I asked whether Hackney Council would switch to fully plant-based catering at internal meetings and events to address food related emissions. Could the Cabinet Member Councillor Coban provide an update on this? If Councillors still have concerns would they meet with me to discuss it further?”

Hillwood told politicians at Hackney’s full council meeting on Wednesday 29 November that “the council does need to lead the way”.

he was speaking ahead of the start of the United Nations climate change conference COP28 which runs from Thursday 30 November until Tuesday 12 December.

It brings world leaders together to find solutions to the climate emergency.

She said a report by ReLondon showed that if Londoners reduce their meat intake by 70 per cent, it would cut London’s consumption-based emissions by 20 per cent.

Hackney’s cabinet member for climate change, environment, and transport, Mete Coban said the council would work towards a plant-based policy.

He stressed it would not force residents to follow suit and it was important to recognise the diversity in Hackney.

He said: “We’ve got to take these communities on a journey on how we tackle the climate emergency.

“It’s about how we work with them to make sure that we can help support them in that transition.”

Hackney’s climate action plan includes reducing the 73 per cent of harmful emissions caused by consumption and waste.

The council aims to reach net zero by 2030.

According to council statistics meat accounted for seven per cent of Hackney’s greenhouse emissions in 2018, and other food and drink contributed four per cent.

“It’s really important that we don’t fall into the trap of telling our residents how they should live their lives,” said Coban.

He explained how carbon emissions were cut when half the food provided before May’s full council meeting was plant-based.

The council’s sustainability and climate team has been involved in a London-wide “eat like a Londoner” to reduce food waste and encourage people to eat more plant-based meals.

He added: “We’ve got to understand that the climate injustice across the globe, not just here in Hackney, is not caused by individual people, it is caused by the fossil fuel industries, and we’ve got to help tackle the injustices in those areas.”

Coban said it would be wrong to ask people “to be continuously making sacrifices on the move towards net zero”.

Hillwood offered to meet with councillors if they have concerns.

After the meeting, Ms Hillwood said: “Hackney Council can be inspiring and forward-thinking climate leaders by ensuring their own internal catering is plant-based.
“Not only will this reduce the council’s own emissions, it will also reduce deforestation, fresh water usage and biodiversity loss as a result of council catering.”

Councils including Lewisham, Enfield, Oxford City and Exeter City have voted to go fully plant-based.

Plant-Based Councils, an Animal Rising campaign, is a national initiative of local residents who are pushing for their councils to adopt 100 per cent plant-based catering.

The group claims that local authorities have a responsibility to follow the current scientific consensus, which acknowledges the environmental, health and cost benefits of plant-based meals over those containing meat and dairy.

The campaign is active in over 45 councils, with the group encouraging interested residents to sign up to run a local campaign.