Darwin will be the first UK college of the University of Cambridge, UK, that will have an all-vegan menu for its traditional May Ball celebrations — which go back to 1866. May Balls are formal parties held at the end of the academic year, combining fabulous gowns and all-night excess. However, this year, in this particular college, even the alcohol will be vegan.   

Harrison Whitaker, a second-year PhD student in film history and a member of Darwin’s May Ball Committee, said to the Cambridge Independent: “I’ve been a supply chain officer since the start of the year. Out of 33 colleges at the University of Cambridge, 25 have a May Ball. The May Ball at Darwin will have 650 attendees: Darwin is the first and only one to have a vegan menu. The decision-making process was fairly organic. A couple of the 20 May Ball committee members were interested in going vegan, the suggestion was discussed and we talked to vendors and alcohol suppliers. It was when we realised we could have as good if not better supplies if we offered a vegan menu that the idea caught on. There’s plenty of food options from five vendors including savoury dishes and desserts. This year we have an Orient Express theme – Paris, Venice, Istanbul – so for instance there’ll be pizzas for the Venice part of the menu… There are very very few wines that are vegan,” says Harrison, “but we found some local English vineyards – Chet Valley Vineyards in Norfolk and a’Beckett in Wiltshire – that offer a sparking wine and a white: we’ve not found a red yet.”

Darwin’s Ball will be held on 23rd June 2023, and the tickets are on sale from £150.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.