A spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance has dubbed a push by University of Cambridge’s Students’ Union (SU) for an all-vegan menu across its on-campus catering services an “attack on freedom of choice”.

University of Cambridge’s SU voted on Monday (February 20) to initiate talks with central catering services about removing all animal products for its cafes and canteens, to create a sustainable and plant-based menu.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said that the vote, and its results, also shows a “misunderstanding about the reality of livestock farming in the UK”.

“It’s often the case that radical motions passed by students’ unions are made up of a small minority of the wider student body, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the vast bulk of students felt alienated by this decision,” he said.

“Cambridge Student Union would be much better off sourcing sustainable local meat and dairy produce from local farmers.”

This, he said, should be done instead of a transition to a fully plant-based menu, which could likely see “highly processed plant-based alternatives transported in from across the globe”.

“Cambridge University should demonstrate their support for sustainable UK farmers by ensuring they continue to supply meat and dairy, irrespective of what its students’ union decide to do,” he said.

‘Sustainable and 100% plant-based’

The University of Cambridge’s SU vote on the topic saw 72% of non-abstaining student representatives vote in favour of bringing the issue to the university’s catering services.

The motion, proposed by organisers of the Plant-Based Universities campaign, is calling for “sustainable and 100% plant-based” catering as a response to the climate and biodiversity crises.

William Smith, of Plant-Based Universities Cambridge, said that it was “great” that Cambridge SU passed the motion to work with the university to implement a “just and sustainable plat-based catering system”.

“By removing animal products from its menus, the university could significantly reduce its environmental impact and showcase to the world its commitment to sustainability.

“The University Catering Services has already made important strides, for example in 2016 when it removed beef and lamb from all its menus. We look forward to working with them on the next necessary steps,” he said.