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‘The first step in a long journey’: The pioneering British town which has committed to veganism


So far, 17 cities worldwide have endorsed the 'plant-based treaty'. The town of Haywards Heath, which is home to around 34,000 people, is the first place in Europe to do so.

JANE DALTON: In many ways, Haywards Heath is an unremarkable British town. Positioned in West Sussex on the main Brighton-to-London railway line, it is popular with commuters to the capital but also has an ample elderly population. Charity and coffee shops thrive, but in recent years the town has lost its high street branches of Santander, Currys, Co-op and Dorothy Perkins, and is no stranger to a planning battle.

So far, so average. But Haywards Heath also just happens to have made history with a pioneering step in the fight against the climate crisis. The town council has signed up to the plant-based treaty, an initiative aimed at persuading world leaders to drive societies gradually to switch away from diets involving animal products to diets without – otherwise known as vegan food.

Experts agree that animal agriculture is a leading cause of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, partly because of its high emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, and partly because it uses drives deforestation as habitats are cleared for livestock and animal feed – land that could produce more food for people if used for human-edible crops.

It also drives biodiversity loss and water pollution, and high consumption of animal products has been linked to heart disease and cancer. The treaty’s demands – 38 of them in all – range from no building of new animal farms and no intensification of farms to transitioning to plant-based meal plans in schools, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as subsidising fruit and veg. Grants would be given to livestock farmers for switching to plant production, while food security would become a priority for all nations, “with a focus on ending poverty and hunger”.

So far, 17 cities worldwide have endorsed the treaty, including Boynton Beach in Florida. But the modest town of Haywards Heath, which is home to around 34,000 people, is the first place in Europe to do so. As a vegan journalist who lives locally, I had to know more about what this meant. So, on a morning sticky with the humidity of a heating planet, I set out to find out what it would mean in practice – and how other residents would respond. SOURCE…