The meat industry says an inner-city Melbourne council’s decision to take meat off its menu on Mondays is narrow-minded and could impact on regional economies.
Moreland City Council voted last week to remove meat from the catering of any council-run event that takes place on a Monday as part of efforts to curb climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report earlier this month stating that a meat-based diet caused more pollution than other diets.
But one meat producer in south-west Victoria — Koallah Farm managing director Steven Castle — has called the Moreland councillors’ vote hypocritical and a “stunt”.
Mr Castle has even hit back with his own stunt, offering a discount and free delivery for meats purchased by residents living in the Moreland municipality.
It’s laughable that these public servants can sit in their climate-controlled, inner-city offices mounting an argument that eating less meat is the way to reduce climate change,” he said.
“We just can’t afford for this sort of narrow-mindedness to become any more systemic than it already is within governments,” Mr Castle said.
“We support traditional farming methods and the more difficult they make it for producers like us, the more food that will need to be produced through factory farming and mass production, [which will have] an even greater impact on the environment.”
Moreland City Council voted in September to declare a “climate emergency”, and Mayor Natalie Abboud told last week’s meeting she thought having “meat-free Mondays” was a way to help battle climate change.
I think it’s acceptable that we put our mouths where our money is,” she told the meeting.
But Mr Castle disagreed, saying such campaigns were ridiculous and city-centric, with the capacity to damage farming families and regional economies for little actual gain in the battle against climate change.
“We are where food comes from — it’s pretty simple,” he said.
“If the publicly elected decisionmakers of this state continue to make life harder for farmers, then more and more food will have to be trucked in and that certainly isn’t great for the planet.
Why not just respect everyone’s individual right to choose what they put in their bodies without this unnecessary posturing?”
Australian Meat Industry Council CEO Patrick Hutchinson said Moreland City Council’s vote misrepresented the IPCC report because it showed “a complete lack of understanding of the meat industry supply chain within Australia”.
“We find it galling that a council’s easy option [is] to promote itself and a most-likely Green agenda, and it doesn’t actually solve or help anything,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“This is just a populist attitude from an inner-Melbourne council that decided to take the easy way out and blames someone else for … a climate issue as opposed to anything it does itself.
“We as an industry are working towards [being] carbon neutral by 2030 — I haven’t heard any council in inner-city Melbourne try put forward a similar process.”
He said such moves as “meat-free Mondays” not only impacted on farmers in regional areas, but also businesses in Melbourne, such as butchers and restaurants.
“It’s [part] of a global concern around people basically misinterpreting science and misinterpreting research in order to then have an overall position on climate change as it aligns to the meat industry,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“[Moreland City Council should] maybe look at the harder questions around [how it operates] and the key areas they can cut back on [where] they themselves impact on [the environment], such as utilisation of certain machines and papers and how they manage waste, including food waste, in their council.”