Northern Ireland

Divisions over call for Belfast City Council to go vegan

The Green Party have called for a ‘plant-based procurement’ policy within the council

The Green Party has called for Belfast City Council to adopt a plant-based food only policy. (Alamy Stock Photo)

The Green Party has called for Belfast City Council to go vegan, leading to concerns from other councillors over costs of such an initiative.

The motion by the Green Party for a “fully plant-based procurement” on food within council buildings was put forward at a meeting of the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.

Committee members have voted for council officers to prepare a report looking at how a vegan policy would be costed and implemented.

The Green motion calls on the council “to commit to fully plant-based procurement where food is served throughout the council estate, prioritising seasonal local produce to support local farmers, and ensure that there are plant-based food options available at all City Council-run events, as well as prioritising plant-based menu options in council-run facilities”.

Green Party councillor Anthony Flynn warned PrEP services across the north are now facing a `cliff-edge' within weeks
Green Party councillor Anthony Flynn.

Green councillor Anthony Flynn, who proposed the motion, told the committee he was asking for a “feasibility” report on the proposal.

“This aligns with our obligations in the Belfast Agenda, in terms of tackling health inequalities and increasing our city’s resilience to climate change, as well as the Belfast City Council declaration of a climate emergency in 2019,” he said.

“One of the recommendations in the 2021 UK National Food Strategy recommended that local authorities ensure that ratepayer money is spent on healthy and sustainable foods. Vegan or plant-based diets are better for the environment as they produce a quarter of the emissions compared to diets including meat, less than half of the water consumed and less of an impact on water pollution and biodiversity.”

However, Sinn Féin’s Ronan McLaughlin said such a move could “narrow the market, and increase the general overall cost” for the council.

“It should be about people making the right choices through an education process, not through a forced process,” he said.

“And I would be worried about the cost. In terms of the current climate, the cost of living crisis, I don’t think we can agree to increase the catering budget of the council. I don’t think the public would stand for that.”

Asked if the proposal would exclude local farmers who produce meat, Councillor Flynn said: “Many farmers will provide both meat products and also other types of product, plant based products as well.”

He added: “A study from Oxford University has compared different food streams across the world and western Europe and plant based food diets can reduce costs by about a third compared to meat based diets.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Micheal Donnelly also told the committee said he was concerned over the cost of councillors receiving meals at full monthly council meetings.

“We are big and ugly enough to feed ourselves if we are hungry, and grab a sandwich before we go to a committee or full council.”

The committee also agreed to look at costs for councillor’s food.