Moreland Council’s eat less meat climate debate #MeatlessMonday

August 18, 2019 at 1:14 pm 1 comment

Climate impact of people reducing meat consumption – Nature

Sometimes climate action can rear it’s head in unexpected places. Like the Corporate catering contract for Moreland Council events and meetings discussed at Council’s August 14th Council meeting in 2019.

There was an amendment to the pre meeting circulated Officer recommended motion, that caterers prepare all vegetarian/vegan food for events on Mondays, as a small contribution to the Meatless Mondays campaign to call attention to the high embedded emissions in meat, and start by having a meat free day on Monday at Council catered events.

The latest science in the IPCC Land and Climate report identifies that change in agricultural practices and in behavioural change in reducing meat in our diets will be an important part of reducing emissions.

“We don’t want to tell people what to eat,” says Hans-Otto Pörtner, an ecologist who co-chairs the IPCC’s working group on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. “But it would indeed be beneficial, for both climate and human health, if people in many rich countries consumed less meat, and if politics would create appropriate incentives to that effect.” quoted in this Nature news article: Eat less meat: UN climate-change report calls for change to human diet

There was a debate over including ‘meatless Mondays’ in the Corporate Catering contract, with the loudest proponent against being Cr Oscar Yildiz.

See report in the Age: ‘Dictatorship’: Council’s new ‘meat-free Mondays’ to cop BBQ protest and Herald Sun: The Melbourne Council going Meat-free on Mondays

“I have been to several meetings and other events of Council where the catering has been vegetarian/vegan and the food has been tasty and spectacular.” said Climate Action Moreland convenor John Englart.

Cr Riley also highlighted that vegetarian catering is generally cheaper, so actually saves taxpayers money, too!

“If it pushes caterers to explore vegetarian cuisine, that can only be a social plus, rather than the negative as Cr Tapinos tried to make out.” said Englart.

“It is disappointing that councillors who supported Council declaring a climate emergency, were not prepared to walk the talk and change their own dietary behaviour for one night a week at catered Council briefings”

“My real fear is that in 10 years time we’ll have substantial global food insecurity, reduced harvest yields and starvation, and we’ll regard these debates about catering for just ‘meatlessMondays’, with quaint scorn.”

“We should applaud this small act of leadership from Moreland Council for adopting a meatless Monday approach to reducing agricultural emissions from reducing meat in our diet” concluded John Englart.

Some facts:

1. the motion was for caterers to provide only vegetarian food for Council events or functions on Mondays, a largely symbolic but leadership decision to encourage participation in Meatless Mondays to raise the issue of the carbon footprint of what we eat.
2. Cr Oscar Yildiz supported the unanimous decision for Council to declare a climate emergency in September 2018. He also signed an individual climate emergency pledge.
3. Cr Oscar Yildiz stated before 2016 election: “If elected I will continue to advocate, support and commit to any project which encourages sustainability and supports climate action.”
4. The caterers contract does not impose what Cr Yildiz chooses to eat, indeed he can bring his own chicken or lamb doner kebab to eat at Councillor briefings if he wants
5. Serving vegetarian platters will likely reduce the catering cost, a saving for ratepayers
6. The IPCC Land and Climate science report released 8 August makes it abundantly clear that we need to reduce agricultural emissions, and that involves reducing meat consumption, especially ruminants (beef and lamb) See: Eat less meat: UN climate-change report calls for change to human diet
7. Paul Hawken has researched and ranked the top 100 solutions to global warming – reducing food waste is at number 3, eating a plant-rich diet is number 4. These are readily available solutions that citizens of Moreland can implement today that Moreland Council should be encouraging.
8. Cr Yildiz understands we have a climate emergency but refuses to symbolically show a little bit of leadership as a Councillor in giving up meat on one night per week at Council catered functions or briefings.

In 2014 researchers identified that “Greenhouse gas emissions from ruminant meat production are significant. Reductions in global ruminant numbers could make a substantial contribution to climate change mitigation goals and yield important social and environmental co-benefits.” – Nature: Ruminants, climate change and climate policy

Ruminant carbon footprint compared to other protein Sources. Source: Ripple et al (2014)

Methane sources and ruminant numbers Source: Ripple et al (2014)

===Transcript of debate==


Extract from Executive summary

“Successful contractors will be required to provide and deliver meals ranging from fruit, snacks and sandwiches to formal main course type meals to Council Civic Centres and other locations throughout the municipality on an as needs basis. The functions at which catering will be required will vary from Council meetings, committee meetings, internal meetings, civic events and formal dinners.

“Successful contractors will be required to provide a diverse range of foods, adapting for religious beliefs, special dietary requirements, healthy food choices and catering should reflect Moreland’s culturally diverse community.

“The tender process was designed to ensure all businesses, small to large, local and outside of the municipality, had the same opportunity to tender for the contract whilst applying a strong emphasis on economic and social sustainability. The process also sought to demonstrate Council’s leadership by recognising and rewarding suppliers who source ethically and sustainably produced, seasonal and local food/ingredients, to meet high standards of animal welfare and minimise the water and energy used to produce and transport the food.

“The potential term for the successful tenderers is five years, consisting of the initial contract term of 3 years with two 1-year extension options.”

Cr Martin: Proposed Adding a 4th dot point to the officer recommendation that reads:

Notes that Council declared a climate emergency in September last year. That emissions come from a variety of sources from within Council control and that a climate emergency declaration means taking action subsequent to making the declaration.

The latest update to Australia’s greenhouse gas inventory shows that agricultural emissions account for 12.9 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Indirect and direct emissions from livestock account for large amounts of these emissions and that there are known health benefits of people eating a vegetarian diet, and diets with less meat and more vegetables.

As a result, Council commits to receiving meat free catered meals on Mondays at all Council functions and events including Councillor briefings.

The amendment was seconded by Cr Abboud.

Cr Martin: The reason, and this came up in debate before, when we were talking about the climate emergency declaration, one of the things we have done as a council in making the declaration.

Agricultural emissions account for a large percentage of that if anyone has read the latest IPCC report, have seen the latest documentary with David Attenborough, It’s evident that agricultural emissions need to be reduced for us to stop getting to 1.5 degrees let alone 2 degrees celsius.

What this does. Council has a very small sphere of influence in the agricultural space, especially being an inner city Council. One of the things we can do, recognising that this is not for all meals all the time, this is essentially moving a motion for Meat Free Mondays for Council. It is something that it is within our sphere of influence, and I think all of us will be a little bit healthier for it.

Cr Abboud: As the seconder I will also speak to it. I think it is important to stress here that, for me personally I am getting contacted by people saying we have declared a climate emergency but what in fact are we doing about it to respond to the declaration.

We are talking about one meal out of twenty one, thats if you only eat 3 meals a day. I think it is acceptable that we put our mouths where our money is on this one and make the commitment.

We are not asking meat eaters to stop eating meat. I am a meat eater and I won’t be stopping eating meat but I am happy to go veggo for this one meal. This is just about committing to make a very small change to show we are conscious about our consumption of meat because of the impact that growing that meat has on the planet.

Clarification: There are two contracts, one for daytime events and one for evening events. The motion would apply to all meals on Mondays, so both catering contracts

Cr Abboud: I think for us Councillors we eat a meat meal here on a Monday night. We are talking for our perspective from the evening meal and I think that there is not much eating that goes on around here during the day for day meetings and day catering and that sort of thing. I think we are talking about that one Monday evening meal.


Cr Yildiz: I find that this one is one of the most ridiculous motions. A Councillor and a Mayor of a Council tried to do this, I think it would be the front page of every paper. I won’t go into details of what he did, but I think Cr Lambros knows.

But hey, some of us like meat. We can choose to eat it or not.

Some of us only come to one briefing every two weeks anyway, we’ve got commitments and whatever. We actually look forward to join our colleagues in having a decent meal.

But to actually say to the caterers you can not serve meat on a Monday because we are going to have a massive impact on greenhouse gas, I find that interesting…I am laughing because it’s actually really funny.

I can’t believe you can move something like this, but I reckon the Leader is going to have a feast on this one. Excuse the pun. (giggling)

Cr Abboud: I’ll pay that pun actually

Cr Kavanagh: I rise to speak against the motion. I know you said it was two meals out of twenty one but it is actually one meal out of two that we have a council weekly thing, so it is exactly half our weekly meetings.

I think we should also be supporting our farmers, our Australian livestock farmers. I think it is important, it’s an important industry. As for health benefits, look at the subject matter of this? What more evidence do you need that it’s a healthy diet? Like, seriously, its subject matter.

I’ll be forshadowing another motion if this is not successful, in moving the officer recommendation.

Cr Abboud: In Favour? I am just going to put it to the vote.

Cr Riley: I am happy to support this. I understand this is really going to hit where it hurts, in the solar plexus.

I actually went through a serious debate at CERES a couple of years ago when I was on the board there and when I first became a Councillor. This is the debate that CERES should go meat free and I was on the other side, I argued that they shouldn’t. But my argument was all about reducing meat, also acknowledging the huge impact that agriculture has on our planet.

I just think that if anyone woke up this morning and listened to the news and you heard the debate going on about Tuvalu and our Pacific and you actually really drove home what is going on, on our planet and the risk to the people trying to grow their veggies on a little island in the Pacific, and the impact that cows and all those
animals have on our greenhouse emissions, it is significant and it is major.

I know that our culture around eating is really important to us and I think I value that too. I just think that, I am not trying to engineer anything but to get people more conscious about it and to be realising that we are in an emergency. It is just about reinforcing that for me. If you want to bring your own meat and eat it, please do, it just won’t be on the Council menu if it gets past.

Cr Irfanli: Thankyou Chair, All jokes aside for a moment, I often hear that Council is about good governance. To talk about a shocking example. This is a contract we have gone out to give to businesses.

We have said these are the limitations of the contract, this is what it needs to fit into. They have put time and effort into responding to that contract, then as a last minute as we adopt it, we are trying to change it from what we were actually expecting from that contract.

If this was a road and we go out to businesses to go construct a road, we have a clear brief on what we want from that road, it comes back to Councillors with a recommendation on who should build that road, and we move on the night ‘Well I want you to paint the road pink’, something completely different. It doesn’t make any sense.

Good governance would be if this was raised before this came to us as a contract to be awarded. Just from a governance perspective, I’ll be voting against this motion.

Cr Abboud: I just wanted to ask a question about whether it would be satisfactory to say: not beef rather than no meat?

Cr Dorney: I’d like to speak in favour of the motion. I think that this is something that isn’t complicated in terms of the contractors being able to look at addressing. When you look at the international best practice evidence on the top 100 things that people can do to reverse global warming and climate change, number four is actually starting to eat – not telling people what to eat, that you can’t eat any meat – Just touching on Cr Riley’s point that eating more plant based meals is number four in the top 100 things in the whole world that we can measure that will actually do to start to turn this thing around. So I think that as Councillors we can lead the way and lead by example demonstrating what is possible by cutting meat from one day a week. I don’t think it is a big deal in the scheme of how many meals we have each week. It just sends those little messages on leadership and on whats possible. I think we need that now, the community needs that now, I don’t see any harm in it.

Interjection from Public gallery: Just One night a week.

Cr Abboud: Quite in the public gallery please

Cr Tapinos: in all seriousness i think the best valid point raised tonight has been by Councillor Irfanli. There may be some contractors here that specialise in a particular quisine, who specialise in a particular meal, who just don’t have the vegetarian options available, and I do think it is moving the goal posts at the decision point of awarding the contracts. On a less serious note I also don’t think we should be telling people, particularly our staff and other community organisations who may use our facilities at co-sponsored events and our council events.

I just don’t think it is the role of council. If it was purely us at our briefings I would be happier with that, although I doubt whether vegetarian meals can get us through our long briefings that we have, but I do think that it is just a step too far, to be telling people and our staff that you must eat this because of our ideology. I always thought that some of our Councillors were ideologically driven at every one of their decisions and I think this proves my point.

I just think we need to calm back down, be a little bit more serious, have a look at the contract obligations, and really not support things that is going to make things difficult for some people, and support things that make a difference, make a difference for our facilities people. It raises so many questions why I can’t serve meat on Monday. But It’s not for religious grounds, if its Tuesdays and Fridays I can probably understand. What gives us the right to determine someone else’s diet.

I know that not having much meat is healthier, but sometimes it is the sugars and excessive carbohydrates that is actually unhealthy, not proteins. So people can have different views, this is an area we should just stay well away from. You are probably not going to save the planet by stopping eating meat in Monday.

Cr Martin (Right of Reply): Isn’t it amazing how desperate everyone is to hang on to that one dish. Out the back there we have 4 or 5 dishes. Every council briefing there is 4 or 5 of them and one of them is livestock protein. So it is one fifth of one 21st of the meals that Councillors will be consuming. It really isn’t that hard to do.

As a Council that has declared a climate emergency, we know all the facts, we know all the information. I just think that this is a simple gesture that we can do as Councillors. We can’t be going around expecting residents to be reducing emissions without first trying to reduce our own. This is not across every single meal, every single day. What we are talking about here is one day of the week. At the end of the day we will probably end up saving ratepayers money because we will be buying the vegetarian option, which is usually alot cheaper than the meat option. So I really do think that this is a simple gesture that Council can do within our sphere of influence to actually say we are serious about tackling the emergency that we face. I hope that my fellow Councillors support me on this one.

Cr Abboud: I put that to the vote:
Those in Favour: Against:
We need a division.
Those in Favour: Cr Bolton, Cr Dorney, Cr Riley, Cr Abboud, Cr Martin
Those Against: Cr Yildiz, Cr Tapinos, Cr Kavanagh, Cr Irfanli


Entry filed under: Climate Emergency, Moreland Council, news. Tags: , , , .

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