A Lancashire university's student union becomes one of the first in the UK to pledge to be 100% vegan

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A student’s union at a university in Lancashire has become one of the first in the UK to pledge to be 100% vegan across its campus.

In an astounding majority, 95% of Lancaster University’s Students’ Union have voted to endorse a transition to 100% plant-based catering across the university campus.

The motion, backed by a coalition of student campaigners and academics, marks a significant milestone in Lancaster University’s commitment to environmental action. 

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Faye Rennie, a ‘Plant-Based Universities Lancaster’ campaigner said: “We are really excited that the students’ union is endorsing a shift towards plant-based catering here at Lancaster. This is a massive step in the right direction and fully aligns with Lancaster’s other sustainability commitments and initiatives.

“We look forward to working with our Students’ Union and University to make the results of this vote a reality, making the most sustainable choice the most convenient one.”

The students at Lancaster University have voted in favour of transitioning to vegan catering.  Credit: Engin Akyurt from PixabayThe students at Lancaster University have voted in favour of transitioning to vegan catering.  Credit: Engin Akyurt from Pixabay
The students at Lancaster University have voted in favour of transitioning to vegan catering. Credit: Engin Akyurt from Pixabay | Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

What is the motion’s aim?

This initiative aims to address the urgent need for climate action through institutional change, and the outcome at Lancaster reflects a growing recognition of the environmental impact of animal farming and fishing.

In their policy motion, Plant-Based Universities Lancaster outlined the potential of a plant-based food system to free up land the size of Europe, the US, China and Australia combined. They say that if this is rewilded, it could offset up to 13 years' worth of fossil fuel emissions, while providing enough protein and nutrition to sustain the planet- making this a key solution to the climate crisis. 

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Plant-Based Universities say the motion also highlights how the transition will be guided by student input, ensuring menus are sustainable, affordable, delicious and inclusive to all diners

Members of the Lancaster Plant-Based Universities groupMembers of the Lancaster Plant-Based Universities group
Members of the Lancaster Plant-Based Universities group | submit

When will the transition take place?

The Students' Union will now be lobbying the university, alongside Plant-Based Universities campaigners, to make the changes.

The motion proposes a gradual transition, with a target of 50% plant-based catering by 2025, and full implementation by 2027 subject to review.

What has the university said?

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“As a result of this vote, where 18 out of the 19 members present at the meeting voted in favour, our Students’ Union will now look at the suggested proposal for moving to a plant-based catering model in much closer detail. Lancaster University will work closely with the Students’ Union to keep food choices for our students under consideration. We currently offer a wide range of food outlets, aiming to have vegetarian and plant-based options on every menu. We also have a dedicated vegetarian and vegan café on campus for all students, staff and visitors to enjoy.

“We understand that our environmental impact as a University is complex and we are taking major steps towards a low carbon future. Yesterday saw us take a significant step closer to achieving our Net Zero Carbon targets by holding a groundbreaking event at the site of the new solar farm, marking the official start of one project which will strengthen Lancaster’s position as a global leader in sustainability.”

The proposal did however garner support from academics at Lancaster, including Professor Rebecca Willis, Professor in Energy and Climate Governance, who said: “Reducing consumption of meat and dairy products is a crucial step in meeting our climate and health targets. I’m really pleased that Lancaster’s students are asking our university to lead the way on this vital issue.”

“As Lancaster takes this progressive step towards plant-based catering, it demonstrates the pivotal role universities can play in leading climate action.”

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Has there been any opposition to the motion?

Rural campaigners have hit back at the decision to ban meat and dairy products at campus catering outlets, saying that the vote conducted by a ‘small group’ of Lancaster University Students Union is an “attack on freedom of choice” against the majority of Lancashire’s student population, which comprises some 13,000 students.

Campaigning group the Countryside Alliance, which champions British farming, argued the notion that plant-based diets are the only way to meet sustainability targets ‘deliberately ignores’ data which suggests that British meat is amongst the most sustainable in the world.

The group also say that farmers contribute to sustainability goals through regenerative farming techniques and the production of renewable energy.

Sabina Roberts, spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, said: “It seems preposterous that a minority group of students could take a decision so complex and personal – an individual’s dietary choices – and force it onto the wider student body. This decision absolutely should have been put to a student vote.  

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“Vegan campaigners are welcome to present their arguments in favour of plant-based diets, but should not impose a diet in university-affiliated buildings. Students should take on their democratic duty and consider placing forward a counter-motion that keeps meat on the menu.”

Lancaster has become the 12th UK university to pass a similar motion and The Countryside Alliance is now spearheading what it calls a ‘Rural Fightback’– encouraging universities and local councils around the country to reject calls for compulsory veganism, and instead, commit to procuring locally-sourced meat, dairy, and plant-based produce.

Ten councils, including Dorset, Wiltshire, and Suffolk councils, have passed the motion so far.      

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What is Plant-Based Universities?

Plant-Based Universities, an Animal Rising campaign, is an international initiative of students who are pushing for their universities and student unions to adopt 100% plant-based catering.

The group believes that universities have an obligation to follow the scientific research that they produce on the environmental impacts of animal farming and fishing.

The campaign is active in over 80 institutions, with the group encouraging interested students to sign up to run local campaigns.

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