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Edinburgh Students’ Union to vote on transition to full plant-based menus on campus

Students say they have a moral responsibility to prevent climate change


Edinburgh University’s Students Association (EUSA), is set to vote on a motion which would transition the university’s catering menus to a fully plant-based offering.

The SU will vote on Thursday 30th March on whether to begin a gradual transition to a “Just and Sustainable Plant-Based Catering System” by the academic year 2026-27. If adopted, all campus cafes would only serve vegan-friendly food and drink options by the end of the four-year transition. 

Any Edinburgh University student is permitted to participate in the vote.

The motion is being proposed by the Plant-Based University of Edinburgh Campaign. They say “we have a moral and social responsibility to do everything in our power” to prevent climate change from worsening. The group also claims that plant-based diets are culturally inclusive and can accommodate various dietary requirements.

“Our proposal is an effective way to action the university’s climate change targets, and will help not only to achieve the goal of [net] zero by 2040 but to do so in a much shorter time span, which is essential if we wish to avoid climate, as the current science indicates”, the motion states.

In recent years, the University of Edinburgh has taken steps towards sustainability and environmental consciousness. This vote, however, takes the commitment a step further by directly addressing the impact of food consumption on the environment. Supporters say the motion would transform the Students’ Union’s venues, ultimately creating a greener and more inclusive campus.

Last November, Stirling University’s SU became the first in the UK to commit to transitioning to a  100 per cent plant-based menu across its campus outlets, committing to achieving this by 2025.

The motion outlines the following milestones for transitioning to an entirely plant-based catering system:

  • 50% plant-based offerings by the 2024-25 academic year.
  • 75% plant-based offerings by the 2025-26 academic year.
  • 100% plant-based offerings by the 2026-27 academic year.

EUSA is also seeking to include climate footprint calculations on menus to raise awareness of the environmental impact of food choices. They will also encourage an open feedback loop from students and staff throughout the development and testing of plant-based menus, ensuring that the change improves on all fronts.

While this proposal would impact the food offering in EUSA venues, other non-EUSA university outlets would not be impacted, including the Pollock Halls student accommodation premises, which is run by an external company.

However, the Countryside Alliance group has indicated its opposition to the idea, urging students at Edinburgh to “support our sustainable farming communities and freedom of choice, by voting against these divisive plans”.

“How can an avocado flown from South America have eco superiority over a piece of grass-fed beef from a local farm?”, the group told The Times.

 

This week’s vote follows a similar attempt to ban beef in all EUSA cafes and restaurants in 2020, which did not pass.

Edinburgh University students can vote on the motion this Thursday at the EUSA Student Council from 6 until 8 pm, hosted online.

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