• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

We need to make the transition to plant-based catering

ByRuweyda Ahmed

Apr 13, 2023
Image of Teviot Row HouseOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Edinburgh University students have voted against a motion calling for EUSA venues to transition to 100% plant-based catering by 2026/7. And I do not think this was the right decision. Cambridge University, Queen Marys University of London, Birmingham University, and others have all voted in favour.   

Plant-Based University Edinburgh campaign aims to make a sustainable change to plant-based catering in response to the climate emergency through carbon footprint calculations on food, locally sourced ingredients, and more choice for dietary requirements.   

I think the failure is because of people simply not being aware of animal agriculture’s effect on the climate and/or conflating plant-based with ‘forced’ veganism. In conversation, I have heard complaints about not having cheese or having a Guinness. But at the end of the day, plant-based catering does not mean making you a vegan, and you are free to consume what you want in your own time.  

Edinburgh students are clearly not convinced or aware of how animal agriculture is wrecking our planet. Whether you want to believe it or not, we are in a climate emergency, no thanks to the lack of response from our government. The latest IPCC report has highlighted the need for efficient use of land to tackle the crisis, animal farming is the biggest land user in the UK, and the study stated better use of this land could make the UK carbon negative. Last year British farmers were advised to reduce their production of meat and dairy by a third in the next ten years if scientific advice on limiting greenhouse gas emissions is to be met. The UK is already having to make a move to reduce animal agriculture output for the sake of the climate. So, the motion put forward is not as big of a change as one might think.  

I can understand why it may seem to make more sense to keep the choice of meat and non-meat options. But the damage has been done, and bigger action is needed. It is about making a scientifically backed change to lower carbon emissions and acknowledging the need to restrict animal agriculture. Instead of believing that we can still have it both ways, the preservation of the planet should be prioritised.  

Livestock behind meat, fish, dairy, and eggs are responsible for some 58% of the greenhouse gas created by global food and take up 83% of farmland despite contributing just 18% of the world’s calorie intake. 

The UK is privileged as we are not being burdened with the detrimental effects of the climate crisis. Ethiopia, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Syria are some countries most affected by the climate crisis. If the UK were dealing with excessive floods, droughts, and famines, I don’t think people would be as resistant to a motion that would reduce greenhouse gases. Considering it is four food venues in the whole of Edinburgh.   

This isn’t infringing on your right to choose; when there is a lunch rush, EUSA venues never have a huge line coming out of them. The people I see in there usually have a packed lunch. You still will have the choice to go to Nile Valley, the soup van outside Chrystal MacMillan, Tesco, etc. At the end of the day, I think a sustainable change by EUSA following the fact that plant-based meat alternatives emit 30-90% less greenhouse gas than meat is obviously a good thing.  

Many sects of society are not catered to for many reasons; the meat in EUSA is not halal or kosher – and people get on with it. So, if you believe the current menu is inclusive, I invite you to rethink this. Plant-based catering would be more inclusive of dietary requirements, though nothing can be 100%.   

Edinburgh University is an outlier. Though, in a recent conversation I had the marketing of the motion came up, which I think is another reason. With a lack of awareness, there should have put more effort into spreading information about how it would help. 

It is a shame it won’t happen sooner, but this will come back up again. The transition to plant-based catering would do amazing things for the environment, followed by scientific research and that cannot be ignored. 

Image: Teviot Row House (6168925831)” by Alexandre López from Barcelona, España is licensed under CC BY 2.0.