Students voted to push for an all-vegan menu across Cambridge University’s catering services in response to the climate and biodiversity crises.
The Cambridge Students’ Union has voted for the Plant Based Universities Group to “start talks” with University Catering Services (UCS) about removing all animal products to create a menu that is “sustainable and 100 percent plant-based”.
The move was supported by 72 percent of student representatives who did not abstain, but the decision on whether to act on it rests with the university.
The vote also doesn’t apply directly to the university’s 31 colleges, though campaigners have argued that it provides “a very strong mandate for colleges to begin transitioning to 100 percent plant-based menus.”
The Plant Based Campaign is supported by Animal Rebellion, an offshoot of the activist group Extinction Rebellion.
William Smith, 24, of the Cambridge chapter of the Campaign for Plant-Based Universities, said: “It is fantastic that the Cambridge Students’ Union has agreed to our proposal to work with the university to implement a fair and sustainable plant-based catering system.
“By removing animal products from their menus, the university can significantly reduce its environmental impact and showcase its commitment to sustainability to the world.
“University Catering Services has already made important strides, for example in 2016, when it removed beef and lamb from all of its menus. We look forward to working with them on the necessary next steps.”
The proposal indicated that a global plant-based diet could reduce land use for agriculture by 75 percent. Activists say this land could then be reconfigured to take in as much carbon dioxide as is currently emitted from fossil fuels each year.
But the vote was criticized by the Countryside Alliance, a political campaign group that campaigns for farmers and rural communities and encourages field sports including hunting, shooting and fishing.
Mo Metcalf-Fisher’s spokesperson said: “This is clearly an attack on freedom of choice and unfortunately shows a misunderstanding about the realities of UK livestock farming. The extreme movements that student unions go through are often made up of a small minority of the wider student body, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of students were put off by this decision.
He added: “Cambridge Students’ Union would be better off sourcing local sustainable dairy and meat products from local farmers rather than adopting a policy that would likely see highly processed vegan alternatives flown in from around the world. The University of Cambridge must demonstrate its support for sustainable farmers in the UK by By ensuring that they will continue to supply meat and dairy products, no matter what its student union decides to do.”
A University of Cambridge spokesperson said: “The University of Cambridge removed ruminant meat from the menu in all university catering service cafes in 2016 and has a sustainable food policy that also seeks to actively promote vegetarian options, remove unsustainable fish from the menu and reduce food waste. Student suggestions are always welcome and staff.”
The spokesman added that any change in policy would be subject to consultation.
Students at the University of Stirling have voted for their student union to move to a 100 per cent vegan catering system by 2025.
The Oxford Students’ Union voted to ban beef and lamb in 2020, although some university cafes appear to still serve red meat.
Campaigners of plant-based universities have branch campuses in more than 40 institutions.
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