People need to eat less meat to protect the environment – that was the message from Enfield Council’s deputy leader Cllr Ian Barnes as he defended an apparent “ban on meat” at council events.

Cllr Barnes, who chairs the borough’s climate change task force, said meat and dairy is “bad for the environment” – and a council policy designed to cut its consumption is in line with expert advice given to the UK Government.

His comments came during a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on Tuesday (August 11), after Conservative councillors claimed the Climate Action Plan – designed to cut Enfield’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2040 – had been “adopted without public consultation”.

Enfield Council was accused of a “ban on meat” by Tory leader Cllr Joanne Laban after the plan revealed it would only offer vegan or vegetarian options at events where catering is provided.

During the scrutiny meeting, Cllr Maria Alexandrou (Conservative, Winchmore Hill) said if there had been more engagement with farming organisations the so-called ban would not have become headline news “for all the wrong reasons”.

But Cllr Barnes (Labour, Winchmore Hill) said: “We would like people to eat less meat.

“Meat and dairy is bad for the environment. It produces 60 per cent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, takes up 83 per cent of farmland and delivers 18 per cent of calories needed by society.

“Our message is: eat less meat. If you are going to have meat, perhaps have it as a treat, and if you are going to have it as a treat, please go to your local butcher – they are experts, they will advise you on sustainability.”

Cllr Barnes quoted from a report published by the committee on climate change – a panel set up to advise the UK Government – which says the public sector should take the lead on shifting people’s diets away from red meat and dairy.

He added that he would have loved the Conservatives to have approached the council during the six-week consultation period on the plan and given their views on meat consumption, but they did not do so.

Under questioning from councillors, Cllr Barnes revealed the council received just 16 responses to the consultation – eight from climate organisations and eight from members of the public.

But he defended the way in which it was carried out and pledged the council would continue to engage on the strategy in the months and years ahead.

Cllr Barnes said a public meeting to discuss the plan had been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the council decided to press ahead due to the urgent need to tackle climate change.

He added: “There will be ongoing engagement with stakeholders, and the Climate Action Plan will be subject to regular review.

“This plan is an organic document. It will respond to future engagement, the advancement of science, which we are going to see over the next ten years, and also the sources of funding that become available.”

At the end of the debate, Conservative councillors voted to debate the climate plan at full council – but they were outvoted by Labour members of the committee, who resolved to take no further action.