By David Spereall, local democracy reporter
Leeds is undecided over whether or not to join other councils in backing a global petition promoting vegan diets.
The local authority says its reluctant to “dictate” what people should and shouldn’t eat and “hasn’t reached a view” on whether or not to back it.
Edinburgh recently became the first capital city in the world to support the Plant Based Treaty, which is encouraging people to move away from meat-based products in an effort to fight climate change.
Backing the treaty in full would effectively ban new animal farms and slaughterhouses opening in Leeds, end meat consumptions in local schools and see plant-based diets actively promoted by the council.
Haywards Heath in Sussex and Los Angeles are also among the 20 local governments around the world who’ve signed up to the pledge.
But at a scrutiny meeting on Thursday, Leeds’ chief officer for sustainable energy, Polly Cook, said there were concerns the council would “lose dialogue” with some people over the climate emergency.
The council drafted a food strategy last year, which is aimed at shifting the city towards sustainable eating, but its proposed measures are not as radical as if it signed up to the Plant Based Treaty.
Asked by Green councillor Ed Carlisle if Leeds was considering following Edinburgh, Ms Cook said: “I have seen the treaty. I don’t think we’ve reached a view on it.
“When we did the food strategy we were cautious as a council in terms of dictating what people should eat and we focused more on providing the right information allowing people to make a conscious decision.
“If you were to follow health recommendations you would naturally reduce your carbon footprint from food significantly and that’s about eating less meat, but better quality meat as well.
“We’ve not gone as far as saying it’s ‘plant-based or nothing’ because we want to reach out to everyone.
“There’s a risk if you go down that path that you lose dialogue with a certain part of the audience. You want to be able to appeal to a wide spectrum.”
Forcing veganism is the way to create a backlash against vegetarian food,
not the way to encourage it.
Using that first image to represent plant based food is not only damaging to the cause of saving the planet but to those who now need no further contemplation on the topic. The least a city can do is move with the times and adopt plant based options, the planet is in dire need of immediate change from us all – appealing to eat less meat and to eat “better” meat is not enough, it’s just simply not enough. Take the pledge Leeds, and teach people how to live without driving the planet and ourselves into the ground.