Over 860 experts have put their names down in support of an initiative to transition to 100% sustainable plant-based catering in universities. This figure includes more than 650 academics in 94 universities across the globe, together with notable figures, healthcare professionals and politicians. There are plant-based universities campaigns at six universities here in Yorkshire:
- University of Sheffield
- Sheffield Hallam University
- University of Leeds
- University of York
- University of Bradford
- Bishop Burton College
Support for the move to plant-based catering in universities
The letter has been signed by a vast number of professors and public figures, including Chris Packham CBE, Dr Joseph Poore of Oxford University, the deputy leader of the Green Party (Zack Polanski,) and the co-executive directors of Greenpeace, Will McCallum and Areeba Hamid.
Packham, broadcaster and environmental campaigner, said:
“The student campaigners of plant-based universities are making incredible changes in their institutions and it’s only right to see hundreds of academics stepping up to support them. The move towards a safe and secure plant-based food system is starting, and I stand behind these committed young people driving this shift forward.
“Their successful votes at universities such as Cambridge and Birmingham show the way towards a brighter future. The support of world-leading experts in climate and food system research for this transition speaks volumes.”
The full letter, alongside all signatures, was uploaded to the Plant-Based Universities website this week.
Plant-Based Universities, supported by Animal Rising, is a student-led campaign, limiting the universities’ contribution to the climate and ecological emergency, and shifting public opinion in favour of a plant-based food system. The group claims that universities have an obligation to follow the scientific research that they produce, detailing the environmental impacts of animal farming and fishing. A recent Oxford University study suggested that a plant-based food system would have 75% less environmental impact than our current one.
Signatories on the letter also include Dale Vince OBE, Caroline Lucas MP, George Monbiot and London 2012 gold medalist Etienne Scott MBE. Scott said:
“The widespread support for the Plant-Based Universities campaign amongst academics and public figures alike should be a clear message to our educational establishments across the UK and beyond. The need for universities to act on their own climate research could not be more pressing. The support of academics from over 90 institutions globally is incredibly powerful and I urge universities to listen to their calls for change.
“I feel proud to support university students and urge others to do the same as they show what’s possible when we work together to create a kinder world.”
The Plant-Based Universities campaign has already achieved landmark wins in seven UK universities, seeing votes passed at student unions in Stirling, Cambridge, Birmingham, Queen Mary University of London, London Metropolitan, University College London, and Kent. At home and abroad these wins include:
- The University of Stirling student union has passed a motion to transition to 100% plant-based by the year 2025.
- The University of Cambridge has already removed beef and lamb from multiple menus and is actively promoting plant-based options.
- King’s College London has opened a plant-based café.
- Some 34 outlets across four universities in Berlin have made their menus 68% vegan, 28% vegetarian, and 2% fish-based, with a single meat option, offered four days a week.
- University College London now offers default plant milk at all its campus outlets.
- London Metropolitan now has meat-free Mondays.
- Bournemouth University has lowered the prices of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy.
- The University of Exeter has removed red meat from all campus outlets except one.
Why target universities?
Firstly, the student demographic is statistically the most likely to be vegan, vegetarian or flexitarians, and is also the demographic that’s most concerned about the climate crisis. There is a long history and tradition of student activism and radicalism. Just as universities were among the first institutions to divest from fossil fuels, they can be the first to divest from animal agriculture. Indeed, many UK universities have already committed to having at least 50% plant-based menus, a trend that is only growing as evidenced above.
The Plant Based Universities group encourages interested students to sign up and run local campaigns.