The University of Stirling’s Student Union (SU) has voted in favour of making all the food served at its catering facilities fully plant-based by 2025.
Students have also called on the university to reduce its animal-derived food offering by half by the start of the 2023/24 academic year.
“A transition to plant-based food is a necessary step in the development of a more sustainable food system, and to reduce the climatic effect on the plant”, the motion reads.
First launched in 2021, the nationwide Plant-Based Universities campaign, which is supported by animal and climate justice group Animal Rebellion, tabled the motion at a Student Union general meeting earlier this month. The majority of students who attended – around 100 – approved the proposal.
The decision will impact menus on offer at the SU’s three catering outlets. As of yet, it is unclear whether other food vendors on campus will also be changing their menus.
Imogen Robertson, one of the campaigners at Stirling said: “This vote is a clear sign that young people are willing to take decisive action on the climate and ecological emergencies. We will be working with catering staff to ensure this vote is implemented in a way that provides cheap, delicious, planet-saving options throughout our Student’s Union.
“We are delighted that our fellow students have decided to follow the scientific advice from world-leading academics and step into a brighter future. We hope this sparks a wave of bold action across UK universities to commit to just and sustainable plant-based catering”.
Stirling is the first university in the UK to vote for a complete ban on beef and dairy at its student union-run catering sites.
Other universities in the country have also cut down on animal-derived food offerings in recent years. In 2019, Goldsmiths, University of London voted to ban the sale of foods containing beef at campus food outlets as part of its campaign to be carbon neutral by 2025.
Since 2016, Cambridge University’s catering group has also replaced beef with animal-free products in all of its fourteen outlets and at all of its 1,500 annual events.
Elsewhere in Europe, four universities in Berlin made the decision to start offering mostly vegan and vegetarian meals to students in 2021. Out of the dishes on offer in the canteens and cafes, 68% are now plant-based, 28% vegetarian and just 4% contain meat and fish.
Support for a fully vegan menu isn’t present yet across all universities. In the UK, students at Edinburgh University rejected motions in 2020 to ban meat from their catering spaces, and in 2019, 53% of University of East Anglia’s Student Union Council overturned a ban on the sale of beef in its outlets.
Despite this, popularity for animal-free food is still growing at many universities – new consumer research from digital platform MeatFreed shows almost 70% of students in Manchester want to try more plant-based foods.
Climate and animal justice writer and activist George Monbiot announced his support for Stirling SU’s decision: “It’s fantastic to see the next generation taking control of their future and putting humans, nonhuman animals and the planet first. The Plant-Based Universities campaigners at The University Of Stirling are leading the way in tackling the climate crisis and creating a sustainable food system.”
The Plant-Based Universities campaign is active in over 40 institutions across the UK, with interest also growing in the Netherlands and Australia, says Animal Rebellion.
Hear what George Monbiot has to say on the future of food production in this Food Matters Live Podcast episode: