A COUNCIL chief has been accused of trying to curtail free speech with his opposition to a vegan campaign on buses.

Shrewsbury and North Shropshire Green Party said that Conservative Councillor Steve Charmley, deputy leader of Shropshire Council had sought to curtail free speech by demanding adverts promoting Veganuary were removed from Shropshire buses.

Cllr Olly Rose, a Green Party member of Oswestry Town Council, said: “In the last month motions have been approved by both Shropshire Council and Oswestry Town Council calling for urgent action to address climate change. Livestock farming currently accounts for some 15 per cent of carbon emissions world-wide. Adopting a sustainable life style which protects future generations will involve some changes, for many people it will mean eating less meat.

"That need not threaten our local agriculture, indeed Shropshire is able to provide the sustainable fruit and vegetables we need now and in the future. Shropshire people can make up their own minds and do not need local politicians to prevent them from being exposed to perfectly reasonable adverts”.

A spokesman said that the Green Party felt Cllr Charmley had "misused his position to try and curtail freedom of expression to purchase a perfectly legal advert and it is not his business to interfere in such matters".

Cllr Charmley – who represents Whittington – took to Twitter last week to criticise an advert urging people to go vegan for the month of January.

The advert was placed on the back of an Arriva bus in Shropshire, something which Cllr Charmley objected to, saying the advert should not be on show in a “great county built on agriculture”.

“My gripe is not with how people choose to eat or those taking on a vegan diet.

“The problem I had was more with the background to the advert on the bus.

“After researching the advert, I found it was talking about how dairy farming is cruel and as a result people shouldn’t eat dairy products.

“I have been a dairy farmer myself and I can assure people that isn’t the case.

“My issue is the fact that the advert is very inaccurate and emotive, and this is something that does affect the way in which young people in particular see things."

Cllr Charmley reiterated to the Advertizer that he had no problem with people choosing a vegan diet, and added that the advert was "in hindsight the wrong point of attack for me", criticising "inflammatory" statements on the Veganuary website and on links from the site.

He added that aim in making the comments was "precisely opposite to trying to curtail free speech".

"The advert is what it is. It's the tip of the iceberg which set me off," he said.

"It's definitely the message from the Vegan Society or Veganuary which is factually incorrect and damaging to the agricultural industry."

He added: "This seems to be taken politically by the Green Party and whoever else, but my Twitter feed is my Twitter feed – that's my own take on life, not Shropshire Council's."