RURAL campaigners have accused a council of “turning its back” on farmers after endorsing the Plant-Based Treaty.

The Countryside Alliance released a statement calling Haywards Heath Town Council “anti-farming” after it backed the international treaty, which has been signed by Sir Paul McCartney.

The treaty calls for the transition to plant-based meals in schools and hospitals, but the alliance argues that red meat and dairy are important for a balanced diet.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, a spokesman for the group, said: “It is disappointing to see a local council complicit in pandering to misinformation about livestock farming in Britain, which is among the most sustainable in the world.

“Knowing where your food comes from and how it is produced is far more important than whether it is animal or vegetable. The town council should opt instead for engaging with local farmers about the work they are doing to produce sustainable food, while doing their part to protect and enhance our countryside.

“As it stands, they are open to the accusation of being an anti-farming authority.”

The response comes after former Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi stressed that “it is for families to decide whether meat is part of their child’s diet”, coming out in support of the alliance.

The council, however, is keen to stress it is not directing residents to follow its suggestions but educating people on the treaty's existence.

A spokesman for the council said: “We have not told anybody to go and do anything, we have an environmental commitment and the town council has made people aware of that.

“It is the case that the town council has decided to inform people of the option that is there and that kind of way of life.

“The council is not anti-anything, it embraces and welcomes anything.”