- Students at over twenty universities across the UK are demanding 100% plant-based on-campus catering by the 2023-24 academic year, to ensure a sustainable future.
- Animal Agriculture contributes 18-23% of all greenhouse gas emissions and is the leading cause of deforestation1, says the UN2.
Groups of students at over twenty UK universities are calling for a transition to 100% plant-based on-campus catering in a campaign against University complicity in the climate crisis. This campaign is supported by the climate and animal justice movement Animal Rebellion, who have previously taken direct action demanding a transition to a just and sustainable plant-based food system, most notably against McDonald’s by shutting down all four of their UK distribution centers in 2021.
Vaania Kapoor Achuthan, 19, from University College London said: “Universities are sites of knowledge, and they (themselves) advance our scientific understanding of the harmful environmental impact of meat, fish and dairy industries. They, therefore, have a responsibility to listen to that science and take necessary action. Universities claim to be preparing us for the future, whilst also threatening it by selling environmentally-harmful animal products. More plant-based options will not alleviate universities’ direct involvement in the climate crisis. We will continue campaigning until our universities display actual progress towards 100% just and sustainable plant-based catering.”
Outreach campaigns have been started and policy motions have been filed at six universities (University College London, King’s College London, The University of Warwick, Lancaster University, Coventry University, and The University of Sussex) with over a dozen more, including Brunel University London and The University of Leeds, preparing to do the same. The number of groups are growing every week with the intention to have a campaign running in every university in the country by the end of the year. The campaign has also received global interest, with universities in The Netherlands and Australia keen on adopting it. Anyone interested in being involved or starting a campaign at their university is encouraged to register here.
Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy use around 83% of global farmland, yet only provide 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories. Better use of this land could remove 8.1 billion metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year3. Joseph Poore, researcher at University of Oxford states that “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gasses, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.4”It is facts like these, provided by the faculty of universities including those mentioned, that mean switching to just and sustainable plant-based catering is a necessary step for universities to take.
Nathan McGovern, 22, from King’s College London, said: “The campaign is imminently achievable. Plant-based options are rife amongst cafes and restaurants in UK universities. All we are asking is that the next easy, logical step is taken. It is an entirely possible, and utterly necessary move towards sustainable practice.”
The Guardian reported in December 2021 that the majority of universities are failing to even meet their short-term emissions targets. Global Food Security, a group of the UK’s leading public funders of food-related research, concluded that the transition towards plant-based products generally correlates with a lower environmental impact. This was a study conducted largely by faculty from universities across the UK. Science is staring universities in the face, and imploring them to stop the sale of animal products.
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1. De Sy. V, et al,”Land use patterns and related carbon losses following deforestation in South America,” Environmental Research Letters, vol. 10, no. 12 (2015.)
2. Jia. G, Shevliakova. E et al, “Chapter 2: Land-Climate Interactions” in UN Special Report: Climate Change and Land (2019.) https://www.ipcc.ch/srccl/
3. Nemecek. T and Poore. J, “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers,” Science 360, issue 6392 (June 2018): 987-992.
4. Carrington. D, “Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth”, The Guardian (May 2018).