DORSET Council has become the latest local authority to vote in support of local farmers.

On Thursday, December 14, councillors passed a motion introduced by Conservative Byron Quale, to ensure that all catering at council-organised events is sourced from local producers, specifically including meat and dairy options, alongside plant-based produce.

In a bid to ‘reduce food miles to our tables’ councillors also committed to exploring ways of encouraging residents to ‘shop local’ and take advantage of home-grown, affordable, and nutritious produce including meat, dairy, and vegetables.

Additionally, the motion instructs the authority to oppose “excessive regulation by central government” and to support Dorset’s poultry, arable and livestock farmers to ensure their ability to “enhance our countryside”, alongside its fishing industry to “protect the oceans”.

The amendment was successfully defeated in a vote and the motion went on to pass in full, with 48 councillors voting for and three voting against. There were four abstentions.

In support of his motion, Cllr Byron Quale said: “Food security is one of the most important issues facing Dorset and the nation (…) Our farmers and food producers are facing breaking-point pressures. Our farmers deliver quality, fresh, seasonal, and affordable food to world-leading environmental and welfare standards.

"However, agriculture has become less profitable, and the industry is in decline. We line in an ever-expanding country that needs feeding. With risks to global supply chains, it is our farmers and food producers that will be required to provide for this demand. If this industry is not supported now, we simply won’t have the capacity to meet this need in the future.”

Dorset now becomes the latest council to defy campaigns successful elsewhere, which have seen several councils – including Oxfordshire and the London Borough of Enfield – ban meat and dairy products at their events, while pushing for the public to adopt plant-based diets. It is now the sixth council in a matter of weeks to defy calls for it to “go vegan” after Fenland District Council in Cambridgeshire voted for a similar motion on Monday evening (December 11). 

Both now join Suffolk, Cornwall and North Northamptonshire councils who have all voted to keep meat and dairy on their menus.

The Countryside Alliance has lead a national campaign to ask councils to adopt 'farming friendly' policies, and has backed the Dorset Council motion. 

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, director of external affairs for the Countryside Alliance, said: “This is a fantastic result for common sense, freedom of choice, and farmers across the Dorset. Dorset has a proud farming heritage and that has now been officially recognised. With Dorset joining Cornwall in supporting this important motion, the south west is truly leading the way and sending a strong message to councils across the country.”

Three councils, Edinburgh City Council, Norwich City Council and Haywards Health Town Council in Sussex have also signed up to the ‘Plant-Based Treaty’, which calls for an end to the construction of any future livestock farm and pushes plant-based food in schools and hospitals. It also includes a pledge to promote vegan food over animal products.