Councils Go Vegan – in the UK and Worldwide 

Posted by on July 3, 2024 | Permalink

Councils around the world are taking action to tackle the climate emergency and going vegan. 

UK Councils – Fully Vegan

Exeter City Council will showcase plant-based foods at council-catered events in order to help protect the planet and has set a target for internal event catering to be fully vegan by May 2023. The authority will also ensure that council-run external sites, including leisure centres, cafés, and restaurants, will have plant-based options available.

In 2020, London’s Lewisham Council voted to offer only vegan food at all council events. Vegan options will also be expanded in schools, where there will be an extra meat-free day each week, and the council is offering low-cost vegan cookery classes to parents and children. In addition, Lewisham Council plans to use eco-friendly vegan building materials, such as wool-free insulation, for council houses.

These progressive initiatives were put forward by PETA supporter Councillor Paul Bell, who is vegan, and his colleague Councillor Sophie McGeevor. The measures are part of the Lewisham Climate Emergency Strategic Action Plan 2020–2030.  

Lewisham Councils Climate Emergency Action Plan commits us to doing everything in our power to be carbon neutral by 2030. We are switching to vegan catering at all of our corporate events because we want to encourage our residents, partners and staff to consider the environmental impact of the food on their plates.

As with many of the lifestyle changes we all need to make to protect our planet and future generations, there are lots of co-benefits for our health that come with switching to a vegan diet, or just reducing meat and dairy in our diets.

– Councillor Sophie McGeevorCabinet Member for Environment and Transport, Lewisham Council

Faversham Town Council serves only vegan food at its events.

“I always believe in leading by example and bringing the Climate emergency to the forefront of the council’s priorities was a strong drive for me and something I am very proud to be a part of. There are many changes that we, as a council, can do to work towards carbon neutrality and encouraging and inspiring the wider community to make positive changes. Adopting 100% plant based catering for Town Council event’s is a really important step to achieve our targets and I am pleased to have been a part of this debate.”

– Councillor Chris Williams, chair of the Climate and Biodiversity Committee, Faversham Town Council

Hythe Town Council has also made the climate-friendly move of serving only vegan food at council events.

“I am delighted that Hythe Town Council has taken the logical step of becoming plant-based for all future functions, in line with our unanimously supported Climate and Ecological Emergency declaration. We are seeking to take a leadership role, as advocated of local authorities by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change. The science speaks for itself – a plant-based diet significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, with consumption of meat and dairy fueling global warming and habitat destruction, including of rain forests for feed and grazing. This was an obvious, easy, sensible and cost free step to take.”

– Councillor Martin Whybrow, Hythe Town Council

Oxford City Council voted unanimously for all food served at internal council meetings to be 100% plant-based.

“In the UK we eat twice as much meat and dairy as the global average, which is not sustainable on a finite planet, as there is not enough land in the world to meet this demand. The rate at which we are eating meat and dairy is the leading cause of modern species extinctions.”

– Councillor Paula Dunne, Climate and Environment Panel member, Oxford City Council

Oxfordshire County Council has also passed a motion to serve only vegan food at  council events.

This was a democratic decision taken on a collective basis, which simply says that the council should be promoting healthy, plant-based foods in the face of evidence about the damage being done on a global scale by intensive meat and dairy production, both in terms of climate change and public health. . . . These are not choices we’re making for ourselves, but for future generations. This is a very minor change that sends a powerful message to the people we represent that we take tackling climate change seriously and are prepared to play our part as community leaders.”

– Councillor Ian Middleton, Oxfordshire County Council

UK Councils – Promoting Vegan

Cambridge City Council will transition to fully plant-based catering for council meetings by 2026 and promotes vegan food options at civic and external events.

Winchester City Council and Salford City Council encouraged residents to combat climate change by taking PETA’s World Vegan Month Challenge.

The former mayor of Reading pledged that all food served at hospitality functions during her tenure from 2021 to 2023 would be vegan or vegetarian in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and offer a more inclusive catering service. The former mayor of Worcester ensured that food served at mayoral receptions was plant-based in February-May 2024.

Islington Council serves only meat-free food at council events.

Leeds City Council has pledged to offer more vegan meals and have two meat-free days a week in 182 primary schools. Its plans form part of measures to halve the city’s carbon emissions by 2025.

The City of Edinburgh Council, Lambeth Council, Norwich City Council, Belfast City Council, Exmouth Town Council and Haywards Heath Town Council have signed up to the Plant Based Treaty. The councils will encourage residents to make the transition to vegan eating as a way of lowering their carbon footprint, and some will also expand the availability of plant-based options at council-run events and facilities.

Other councils have held debates on the role of vegan eating in tackling climate change, are serving more vegan options, or offer only meat-free food at their events, facilities, and buildings. Some are advising residents on adding more plant-based foods to their diets and are facilitating local vegetable-growing projects. PETA supports councils in taking these steps with a practical guide including case studies and tailored advice.


Councils Around the World

Amsterdam: The city council has signed the Plant Based Treaty, serves vegetarian food by default at all its events, and encourages residents across the city to adopt a diet that is at least 60% plant-based.

Brussels: The council has expanded the selection of vegetarian options at city events and institutions and plans for 75% of school meals to be vegetarian by 2030.

Helsinki: To help combat the climate catastrophe, Helsinki City Council does not serve meat or cows’ milk at council events. The council has also created a website and app called Think Sustainably, which city residents and visitors can use to find restaurants and cafés serving vegan food.

The biggest positive impact on ones carbon footprint comes from a fully vegan dietThe carbon footprint of cheese is close to that of meat. 

– Satu LähteenojaSenior Expert, Demos Helsinki  

Oslo: City council events have meat-free meals as the default option, and secondary schools do not serve meat. The council promotes the Planetary Health Diet to residents and aims to reduce meat consumption by 50% by the end of 2023.

Berkeley, California: The council has set a goal of serving 50% vegan food at City of Berkeley facilities by 2024. This applies to food served in government buildings and at public events, and the council has resolved to adopt a goal of serving 100% vegan food pending a review.

“Streamlining the City of Berkeley’s transition to plant-forward and plant-based meals advances the City’s Strategic Plan Priority of being a global leader in addressing climate change, advancing environmental justice, and protecting the environment ….”
– City of Berkeley

New York: All 11 hospitals in New York City now serve vegan food as the default option to benefit patient health, cut carbon emissions, and decrease food costs. More than 1,700 schools will take part in “Vegan Fridays” as part of an initiative to improve public health.  

Plant-based options in schools means healthy eating and healthy living, and improving the quality of life for thousands of New York City students.

– New York City Mayor Eric Adams

West Hollywood, California: Vegan food is the default option at all West Hollywood City Council events.

“Reducing the intake of animal products including meat is a meaningful way to cut back on carbon emissions and address the water consumption issues and, frankly, the morality issues that go into mass meat farming.”

– City of West Hollywood Vice Mayor Chelsea Byers

Kelowna, Canada: The mayor of Kelowna organises a Vegan Awareness Week each year in May. 

Stonnington, Australia: Residents are encouraged to eat vegan to reduce their carbon footprint as part of the city council’s climate emergency action plan.

Why Vegan?

Plant-based foods have the smallest carbon footprintswhich means eating vegan helps protect our climate. Producing meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and milk emits more greenhouse gases than producing their plant-based equivalents does. Animalexploiting industries are also major contributors to Amazon rainforest fires, deforestation, drought, and water and air pollution. Going vegan is a win for the environment. 

Vegan food initiatives also prevent cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, fish, and other sensitive animals from enduring a life of misery and suffering on crowded, filthy farms. All animals feel pain, love, and joy, and they value their lives, just as humans do. None of them go willingly to slaughter 

Contact your local councillors and explain why they should call for only vegan food to be served at all council events.  

Not Vegan Yet?

From deadly viruses to the bushfires and rainforest blazes fuelled by the climate crisis, eating animals has near-apocalyptic consequences. The best thing you can do for your own health and the world we live in is to go vegan right now.