Portsmouth councillors pledge to support local food and drink producers while avoiding a vegan 'culture war'

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Portsmouth city councillors have backed local food and drink producers while steering clear of a vegan “culture war”.

In a recent meeting, Councillor Benedict Swann called on the council to commit its support to local producers while ensuring that meat, dairy and seafood are provided at council-organised events alongside plant-based products.

Speaking to the chamber, Cllr Swann said: “Our local area is full of great small businesses, restaurants and cafes, producers and believe it or not farming.

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“The northern boundaries of the city on top of Portsdown Hill sit literally on the edge of fields utilised for both arable and dairy farming with their produce finding its way into our city via small locally run shops.

Potato crops. Picture Bruce Rollinson.Potato crops. Picture Bruce Rollinson.
Potato crops. Picture Bruce Rollinson.

“We must also recognise the importance of fishing to the Portsmouth community and economy. Our local water produces fresh seafood year-round – these catches are also sold at fishmongers within our city.”

The motion was introduced against the backdrop of councils in Oxfordshire and London opting to exclude meat and dairy products from their events while encouraging residents to embrace a plant-based diet.

Cllr Graham Heaney proposed an amendment expressing concerns about providing animal products at all council events, particularly when hosting cultural or religious groups that abstain from meat or dairy. Heaney then refuted claims by the Countryside Alliance, which accused the council of resisting a vegan trend.

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“I wanted to make clear that we’re not defying any vegan trend, we’re not engaging in any sort of culture war issues around the countryside, we’re actually about choice.”

The Countryside Alliance has been leading a national campaign to uphold local produce and resist what they perceive as “compulsory veganism” in councils like Oxfordshire and the London Borough of Enfield. Cllr Swann welcomed the amendment and members unanimously approved the motion.