An open letter signed by more than 650 academics is calling on British universities to commit to 100% plant-based catering to fight the climate crisis. Organised by the student-led Plant-Based Universities Campaign, the letter states that cutting meat consumption in rich nations is vital to tackling the climate crisis, with scientists saying it is the single biggest way for people to reduce their impact on the planet.

The letter, signed by professors such as Frank Kelly, Simon Lewis and Chris Rapley, also states, “Most universities have declared a climate emergency, with many taking steps such as fossil fuel divestment. [Students] deserve to know that their universities are actively working to create a future for them to graduate into…We are not asking for individual dietary changes. Students and staff can still bring whatever food they like on to campus. What we are asking for is institutional divestment [from meat and dairy].”

Vegan broadcaster and campaigner Chris Packham and the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas have also signed it. Dr Helen Czerski, an oceanographer at University College London and television presenter who signed the letter, said to the Guardian, “Universities should see themselves as microcosms of society, where a spirit of exploration encourages people to try new things, to test better options, and to assess the consequences. Whenever I’ve organised a university event recently I’ve chosen plant-based or vegetarian catering without mentioning it, and I’ve only ever had compliments about the food, never complaints about what’s not there. It isn’t nearly as scary as many people think.”

So far, the student unions at Birmingham, University College London, Stirling, and Queen Mary universities have voted to phase in 100% plant-based menus, and the University of Cambridge removed beef and lamb from the menus of its 14 catering outlets in 2016. 

“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’.