The Plant-Based Universities campaign has sent an open letter to university vice-chancellors, catering managers, and student union presidents across the UK, calling for a transition to 100% plant-based catering in UK universities.
The open letter, supported by over 850 academics, politicians, and public figures, including Chris Packham, Etienne Stott MBE, and George Monbiot, marks one of the largest instances of academic endorsement for a plant-based food system.
Urgency of change
Michelle Farnham of the Plant-Based Universities campaign emphasized the urgency of the call, saying, “This open letter should be a clear message to universities across the UK and beyond that the time for bold and decisive change is now.”
Chris Packham, a well-known broadcaster and environmentalist, expressed his support, stating, “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.”
The campaign has already achieved success, with several UK universities committing to transition away from animal products. Earlier this year, Cambridge University’s Students’ Union voted to explore the removal of animal products from their menus in favour of an all-vegan offering. This motion garnered strong support from student representatives, with 72% in favour.
William Smith of Plant-Based Universities Cambridge noted, “By removing animal products from its menus, the University could significantly reduce its environmental impact and showcase to the world its commitment to sustainability.”
“Most universities have declared a climate emergency”
The letter declares, “Most universities have declared a climate emergency, with many taking steps such as fossil fuel divestment – largely prompted by groups such as “People and Planet” and “Extinction Rebellion,” referring to the fossil fuel divestment movement already adopted by 101 UK universities.
The campaign is not pushing for individual dietary changes but rather institutional divestment from meat and dairy. The letter states, “Students and staff can still bring whatever food they like onto campus. What we are asking for is institutional divestment within procurement in the same way that universities are boycotting fossil fuel companies.”