The War on Meat



If you thought the war on meat was confined to student unions, think again

Over the last few years we have witnessed multiple attempts to ban meat from university campuses up and down the country. The University of Cambridge and Goldsmiths have been successful in their attempts; others, including the University of Edinburgh and University of East Anglia, have had bans overturned following votes of the wider student body. Many have laughed off the attacks on the meat as mere playground politics, confined to student council debating chambers. Not anymore. 

It will come as news to many, not least the residents of the Borough of Enfield in North London, that the local council there have hurried through a ban on meat options at all future council catered events. In what can be considered as the most mean spirited of moves, the removal of meat on the menu will take place just before Christmas. No more turkey dinners for those attending Enfield Civic Hall this year. Instead, hungry punters will only be allowed to pick from a range of vegan and vegetarian options –  presumably a plump nut roast.

It is believed to be the first time an elected authority has taken such action. 

The Deputy Leader of the Council, Labour’s Cllr. Ian Barnes, a TV director who has worked for Channel 4, proudly signed off a 40 page dossier which outlined a multitude of measures that Enfield Council will enact as part of their ‘climate action plan’. Anyone would be forgiven for missing the short reference to catering, buried deep on page 36, that simply states:  ‘All events held by the Council where catering is provided to offer only vegan or vegetarian options’. In one short line, a council has launched a staggering attack on the diet choice of the vast majority of people in Britain.

For a dossier of such strategic importance it remains remarkably vague.  According to the tiny section covering catering, the accompanying headline states: ‘The controversial step is designed to influence the behaviour of Enfield’s key partners, suppliers and wider economy’. To most, this indicates the measure is designed to lead those associated with the authority to follow suit.

Political blog, Guido Fawkes, reports the plan received limited public consultation; taking place in the middle of the Corona lockdown. It was agreed at a meeting of the council cabinet on July 15th. Like the rest of the country at the height of the pandemic, Enfield residents have been slightly preoccupied of late, so it would be understandable if responses from the 333,869 strong of local residents has been minimal.

One can only assume those dismissing the move as not constituting a ‘ban’ – on the basis the removal of meat ‘only’ relates to catered events, are being deliberately obtuse. This is absolutely a ban and a deliberate authoritarian attempt to police the eating habits of the citizenry.

It offers no calculations for how the Council arrived at the conclusion that banning meat will assist them in their environmental aims, and insults the efforts of the UK farmers who have set an ambitious target of reaching net zero emissions by 2040. Thanks to UK farming practices, meat production in this country remains one of the most sustainable in the world. The Council make no differentiation between the industrial farming systems in countries like the US and Brazil and that of the mainly grass-fed systems in Britain. Simply put, the Council are failing their residents by not explaining the benefits of sourcing local grass reared meat with high welfare standards and a low carbon footprint. Nor is the Council supporting such farming methods – instead it has opted to ban all meat, with the hope others will follow suit, regardless of where or how it is produced.

Rather than jump on the bandwagon sweeping through campuses, Enfield Council should immediately reverse the proposed ban on meat and consult with the farming community, and offer a proper consultation with local residents.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher is a political commentator and spokesman for the Countryside Alliance. Follow him on twitter: @mometfisher