Controversial but catching on: meat-free universities

Meat-free Mondays and vegan cafés are becoming part and parcel of university campuses, according to an investigation by PA.

Of the 144 institutions that responded to Freedom of Information requests, almost half have introduced dedicated events aimed to reduce consumption of meat, or aimed at non-meat eaters.

Almost a third (31%, or 44 out of 144) have established dedicated vegetarian or vegan cafés or food outlets, whilst 18 have done so partially or are planning to do so.

Some have banned meat products like beef from canteens, events and meetings.

Removing beef and lamb from menus and pushing plant-based options has led to a 10.5% reduction in food-related emissions at the University of Cambridge. There was a 33% fall in carbon emissions per kilogram of food purchased between 2015 and 2018, despite the volume of food rising from 60,ooo kilos to almost 80,000 kilos.

Goldsmiths, University of London, last year banned beef in campus food outlets as part of a “major drive to cut carbon use”. The response has been “very positive”, Vanessa Gouws, head of commercial services at Goldsmiths, told PA.

Such bans have gone down less well with farmers. “I think it's an extremely naive move,” said NFU vice president Stuart Roberts at the time. “It totally ignores the difference between the carbon footprint for example of British beef and all the headlines we hear about global beef.”

NFU president Minette Batters tweeted back at some of the critics of farming: “We are the only industry that has committed to try and beat the government target for Net Zero. But that hasn't made any of you even pause, you just keep going because it's easy and because you can.”

The NFU believes it can reduce or remove the 45.6m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the sector by 2040 – and without a reduction in consumption.

However, the Climate Change Committee has said consumption of beef, lamb and dairy needs to be reduced by “at least 20% person” in order to deliver the government’s net-zero emissions target by 2050.

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