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Author: Sean Barrs

Sean is an activist and academic. He is researching his English Literature PhD thesis on the politics of diet. He is also an ultra-runner with a keen interest in everything plant-based. In the past, he has written for numerous publications including Plant Based News and The Vegan Review.

The Plant Based Universities Campaign – Why Businesses Should Get Involved

The Plant Based Universities campaign was launched in 2021 with the objective of transitioning university catering to a fully plant-based menu. Several active campaigns in UK universities, including Cambridge, Stirling and University College London, have all been highly successful.

In the academic year 2021-2022, it was recorded that there were 2.2 million university students across more than 160 universities in the UK alone. According to The Eating Better Alliance, environmental issues are one of the most significant challenges we face today. Two-thirds of teenagers in the UK would agree with this claim, according to the Alliance, and a significant number of them have gone plant-based as a result. University students, then, are the prime target for capitalizing on this issue.

This makes the potential for growth in this food market sector huge, which would naturally benefit plant-based food businesses and suppliers significantly because of the large number of new potential customers. So, it is in their best interest to back to the campaign.

How  Does The Plant Based Universities Campaign Work?

Plant Based Universities campaign groups host outreach stalls in universities to educate students about climate issues, animal rights and health. They lobby their universities to change and put the vote out to the students of their institutions demanding a shift to plant-based menus.

In addition to this, they offer a summer camp for those interested in representing the campaign in their own university. In a democratic process, this vote is put to students to see if they want their university to make the switch to plant-based catering. Although, naturally, this motion is met with some resistance, in many cases most students have voted for this positive change.

Here are some of the key successes of the campaign to date in the UK:

  • Beef and Lamb have been removed from menus at The University of Cambridge, along with the Darwin Ball being a completely plant-based event in May this year.
  • There is now a plant-based café in Kings College London.
  • The Student Union at Stirling University passed a motion to become 100% plant-based by 2025.
  • The University of Birmingham voted in favor of a complete transition to plant-based catering. It will start with 60% plant-based menus, increasing by 10% each academic year until they are completely animal free.
  • Plant-based milks are offered as the default option across all campus outlets at the University College London.

Campaign Progress

Plant Based Universities state on their website that: “we have also recently seen the Academy Awards and Berkeley City Council adopt policies to have fully plant-based establishments in response to climate breakdown. If we can make universities adopt fully plant-based menus, it can drive a culture shift and set an example to the government and other institutions on how to genuinely act on the climate, ecological, and cost of living crises.”

This cultural shift is precisely what is needed for the plant-based market to receive accelerated growth. One study suggests that, 38% of young people in the 18-24-year-old age group are very concerned about environmental issues, specifically those related to the animal agricultural industry. By comparison, only 20% of over 55s worry about this issue at all. Naturally, it is only logical to target those already with concerns in such a campaign.

Indeed, more and more young people making the shift to a plant-based diet, which is precisely the demographic the campaign targets because they are the ones most receptive to making the switch, so sales of plant-based products will naturally increase. This is an increase that can be capitalized on and improved if the campaign continues to succeed.

How Businesses Can Support The Plant Based Universities Campaign?

This is a campaign that plant-based businesses should actively promote and champion because the possibility of growth in the food sector is huge. But how can they do so? Businesses can publicly offer support and share posts on social media. They can also offer products samples to university catering teams to show how fantastic they are. Donations would also be welcome to allow the campaign to grow. All in all, businesses need to back the efforts of the students because they could benefit greatly if a university chose them as a supplier. Statistically speaking, the amount of revenue this would generate is rather large.

Plant Based Universities also state that “universities have significant cultural capital, and their actions have a great influence over the broader society’s ethical views and sustainable practices.” Resultingly, this cultural capital would have significant ramifications for society at large. This is not just about the students at the university, but it is also about affecting greater change. Universities can set a positive example for the rest of society to follow, which would grow this market even further.

Iain Green, director at Animal Aid, commented that “Animal agriculture is one of the most destructive industries; not only does it cause immense animal suffering, it is also a leading driver of the climate crisis. As such, it is vital that universities and other influential institutions are at the forefront of addressing this.”

Indeed, the success of this campaign could lead to a huge shift in society’s viewpoints and would accelerate the growth of the plant-based food market substantially. So let us all get behind it and do what we can to back the Plant Based Universities campaign.

Analyzing How Plant-Based Businesses Can Help To Feed 10 billion People by 2050

By 2050 the global population is set to reach 10 billion people; there is a significant shortfall between the amount of food available today and the amount needed to feed that many people in the future. A plant-based food system has frequently been suggested as a less taxing solution for the planet as it requires fewer resources compared to raising and feeding livestock.

Population growth is not a new phenomenon or problem; however, due to the unsustainable nature of animal agriculture, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain a population that continues to grow. The animal agricultural industry is inefficient regarding land usage and requires substantial government bailouts to stay financially afloat.

A Plant-Based Food System

In 2018, The World Resources Institute created a five-step plan to address the issue of feeding the population. The first two points directly engage with the benefits of plant-based eating. The institute suggests that the demand for food should be reduced by managing waste and consuming a more sustainable diet. Secondly, food production should be increased without expanding agricultural land. This would lead to a sustainable food future.

Although the institute champions reducing the consumption of animal products on environmental grounds, unfortunately, it does not recognize that an entirely plant-based food system is the future. This is problematic, especially when considering the levels of waste and inefficiency involved in the animal agriculture industry. George Monbiot, however, takes a much more direct approach when discussing the issue; he uses data to highlight just how many people could be fed on a new system.

Monbiot calculates in his article for the Guardian that Britain alone could feed 200 million people on an entirely plant-based diet, which is over three times its current population. To achieve this, a more efficient system needs to be adopted, one that would see the consumers eat the grains and pulses themselves rather than feed them to livestock. This would free up large amounts of land for nature and allow the growing population in Britain to be accommodated. Simply put, more land would be available because fewer crops would need to be grown if they were eaten directly. A plant-based system is undoubtedly the solution to feeding a growing population.

Feeding The Population

This also applies to a global population that exceeded 8 billion people in 2022 and shows no signs of slowing down as it is estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050. Monbiot argues that there are enough calories to feed everybody on Earth, despite chronic hunger and poverty in parts of the world.

In his article, Monbiot writes that “almost half these calories are lost, mainly through feeding the food to farm animals, but also through using it for other purposes (such as biofuels) and through waste. Even so, in principle, there is more than enough for everyone, if it were affordable and well distributed.”

And this is the crux: it needs to be well distributed. Half the calories that are grown are fed to livestock. Rich nations claim to produce large quantities of meat themselves, but they only do so by importing huge quantities of grain. This is primarily soya from South America, which devastates the rainforest because of the huge quantities needed. This results in nations requiring vast amounts of land to grow crops for their food. This land requirement can be drastically reduced through plant-based eating.

What Can Businesses Do?

If the global population shifted to a plant-based diet, the global land use for agriculture would be reduced by 75%, according to Our World in Data. Because of this, we could sustain a much larger population and free up vast stretches of land that could be used for re-wilding. But how can plant-based businesses help with this switch? It is very clear from the data that they could feed a growing population with ease if they replaced the animal agricultural industry, but how can they establish that they must be the leading food supplier?

The value of the plant-based food industry will double to $92 billion by 2027, according to one report. The report also suggests that this increase is driven by heightened levels of food awareness, with environmental arguments at the front of consumers’ minds. The report states that new developments in the sector “emerge every year, paving the way for a global transition to a much more just, safe and sustainable food system.” This growth is expected to continue with a significant profit expected for the sector.

Plant-based businesses should actively lobby the government for change. They can highlight the humanitarian benefits of their products, along with the key fact that they do not need government bailouts to make a profit. Businesses can come together to form collectives; such was the case with the Plant Based Food Alliance in 2021. The alliance is a coalition of organizations in the UK that seek to place plant-based food alternatives at the center of a transition towards a sustainable food system. Similar alliances exist in Europe and America. Businesses should become active in such networks and work to create more change collectively, directly demonstrating to the government that they are the future.

Naturally businesses that are not already plant-based, as do farmers, need to make the switch. The campaigning group Viva! has several resources to help farmers make this switch themselves. Already plant-based businesses should carry on promoting their products in the global food market. Plant-based businesses must continue to grow and flood the market with their products. Only through this market’s continued growth can a growing population be sustained.

Dutch City Bans Meat Advertisements: All You Need To Know

The city of Haarlem in the Netherlands has placed a ban on meat advertising which is set to come into effect from 2024. The production of meat has been conclusively demonstrated to be one of the largest contributors to global emissions and land waste. It is responsible for 60% of greenhouse emissions from food production, prompting the city’s council to act.   

Banned from Public Spaces 

Adverts will be banned from all public spaces such as buses, shelters and advertisement screens. Meat will no longer be promoted to the 160,000 residents of Haarlem as they traverse the city. The ban directly addresses the unethical nature of promoting unsustainable products, specifically those that contribute towards the climate crisis.  

Haarlem councillor Ziggy Klazes, who helped create this motion, said that “We can’t tell people there’s a climate crisis and encourage them to buy products that are part of the cause.” In this, the city has recognised that the food its residents choose to eat plays a significant role in determining their carbon footprint. Haarlem is the first city anywhere in the world to recognise this crucial link in policy, as the motion proposed by the GroenLinks party was passed in September this year.  

Extent of the Ban 

As it stands, the ban addresses meat produced by intensive farming only. There have been no comments or decisions made by the council regarding organically farmed meat. In addition to this, it is not clear how the ban will be enforced on independent retailers and how it will affect different foods and brands. Clearer guidelines will certainly be needed before the ban is put into practice.  

Ziggy Klazes is hopeful that the idea will spread nationally, calling it a ‘signal’ to others. Klazes concluded “There are many groups of Groenlinks who think it is a good idea and want to try it.”  

Will it Catch On? 

This is an innovative policy decision and a bold move against the industries that are damaging the environment. But will other cities follow? The party represents the local green-left and it seems likely other councillors will put forward motions in their own cities. 

Haarlem is the first ever city to do this and the ban follows on from similar restrictions being placed on the advertisement of air-travel, petrol cars and fossil fuels by Amsterdam in 2021. Elsewhere, Norwich in the UK has placed limitations on advertising products that are harmful for the environment and several UK cities are moving in a similar direction. The key here is raising awareness about the detrimental impact meat has on the environment and getting politicians to understand that meat production plays a major role.  

This action has received masses of news and media coverage despite not yet being put into place. If this idea is implemented by other cities, Haarlem will be regarded as a pioneer of this type of policy.   

Agricultural Backlash 

The restriction aims to reduce people’s temptation to buy meat, therefore reducing meat consumption and production. The Netherlands has already committed to reducing the number of animals farmed for food by a third to reduce emissions and farm waste.  

Unsurprisingly, the animal agriculture industry have expressed strong opposition to the decision. Farmers have made news protesting recent restrictions on herd size put into place to reduce emissions. Their staged “tractor protests” blocked motorways and caused disruption to make their opposition known to the government. Before this ban, tensions were already high with the government’s perceived interference in their farming practices.  

The ban also raises moral considerations over freedom of expression, and there have been questions of censorship levelled against the ban. Is it ethical to control what is advertised to the public? One right wing councillor, representing the farmers and the opposing political side, Joey Rademaker, called the move “dictatorial” because the ban is for “political reasons” and does not allow people to make up their own minds about what they eat.  

Growth of Alternatives 

Supporters reinforce that the ban is driven by environmental concern rather than a bid for political control. Indeed, plant-based alternatives to meat are far more sustainable – they have less emissions and cost less to produce.  

Although the Netherlands still has a large meat-eating population, there are more people trying meat alternatives than ever before. The plant-based market in the Netherlands is one of the largest in the European Union with sales of 134 million.  

Haarlem is, undoubtedly, making a bold and innovative step in the right direction. This ban will continue to spark a debate on the ethics of consuming animal products on the local, national, and global stage. The party’s full ideology and hopes for the future can be seen in their New Green Deal for the Netherlands.