• Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

University of Edinburgh urged to go plant-based as lecturers sign open letter

ByLucy Jackson

Sep 10, 2023
plant based dishes

A new open letter has been published urging universities to switch to plant-based catering.

The letter, organised by Plant-Based Universities – a campaign started by Animal Rising in 2021 – urges university vice-chancellors, catering managers and student union presidents to adopt “a safe, secure, and plant-based food system”.

This comes as a motion by Plant-Based Edinburgh, a subdivision of Plant-Based Universities, to switch to 100 per cent plant-based catering failed at Edinburgh University Students’ Association Council meeting in April.

Only 19 per cent (152) voted in favour of the motion, with 645 voting against.

Read More: Students vote against motion to assess feasibility of banning beef sales on campus

The open letter, published on September 4, states: “We are writing to you as a concerned group of academics, public figures, industry professionals, alumni and grassroots campaigners.

“We are acutely aware – as you must be too – of the climate and ecological crises; not only this but we are also mindful that animal farming and fishing are leading drivers of them.”

The letter states that signatories’ demands only apply to university-managed catering, as students are still welcome to bring meat and dairy on campus.

More than 900 signatures have been added to the letter to date, with several staff members at the University of Edinburgh adding their name to the list.

Read More: The University of Edinburgh’s climate action plan

Dr Kirsty Day, Lecturer in Medieval History, spoke to The Student after signing the letter. 

She said: “Moving to plant-based catering at universities obviously won’t stop the climate crisis in and of itself, and is probably not the biggest thing that universities might do to combat global heating and ecological collapse.

“It is, however, a gesture that signals to our students that we recognise that they are facing down a frighteningly uncertain future, and a small but concrete step towards lowering universities’ carbon emissions.

“It feels morally wrong, to me, not to give it a try at least.”  

Universities have been urged to approach plant-based catering with the same urgency as fossil fuel divestment, as many universities have declared a climate crisis.

More from this week’s news: UCU vote to end marking and assessment boycott

The open letter continues: “What we are asking for is institutional divestment within [food] procurement in the same way that universities are boycotting fossil fuel companies.”

The Student previously reported that the university’s investment portfolio showed the university was still investing in fossil fuel companies, despite pledging to fully divest.

Plant-Based Edinburgh told The Student it hoped the University of Edinburgh would transition to one hundred percent plant-based catering.

They said: “The effects of the climate crisis are already being felt globally, especially across the Global South. We believe universities should be institutions that lead the way to solve the climate and ecological emergencies we are currently facing.

“Divesting from animal agriculture, one of the biggest drivers of the climate crisis, and supporting farmers towards a more sustainable food system is one of the most impactful solutions we have readily available.

“We hope that Edinburgh will act in line with the calls from world-leading climate experts and join the seven universities that have already pledged to transition to one hundred per cent plant-based catering.”

Plant-Based Dishes, Raw Food (29103285347)” by Ella Olsson from Stockholm, Sweden is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

By Lucy Jackson

President of The Student.