Students at Regent’s Park will have have one meat-free day a week, starting from next term, after the JCR passed a referendum last weekend.
The referendum, which lasted from Friday to Monday evening, asked, “should the college kitchens go meat-and-fish-free for breakfast, lunch and dinner one day a week, while retaining two options?” The college voted 65.7% in favour, with 30.8% voting no and 3.5% abstaining.
The college ordinarily provides two choices for every meal, one of them being vegetarian, and now for one day a week both options will be vegetarian. The arrangement will start from the beginning of Hilary and there will be a forum at the end of term to assess how students and fellows felt it went.
The reaction from Regent’s students was, as the result suggested, largely positive. One third year theology student praised the initiative, “I think it’s great when the whole college gets together and rallies around an issue like this one.” Another commented that despite not being a vegetarian or indeed a lover of “any greens”, he appreciated and supported the environmental arguments.
Regent’s Treasurer Will Yates commented, “It’s not often we get to gauge the feelings of the whole community on a matter like this and I think the community has made a firm statement of its values and beliefs.”
Others were slightly less positive. One first year complained to Cherwell that he’d prefer the college to concentrate on serving food at weekends than trying this new scheme.
JCR President Will Obeney commented, “Regent’s has a healthy history of progressiveness, from being one of the first colleges to fly the Rainbow Flag, to ensuring everybody receives the same food at formal halls. This referendum shows the college understand the unsustainability of our current diets, and the need for change.”
Somerville JCR voted last year to establish meat-free Mondays, only to see the MCR reject the motion and the plan was abandoned.
Wadham meanwhile is well known for its sometimes-problematic relationship with veganism. Having established meat-free Mondays in 2010, in which only vegetarian meals were served for Monday dinner, it withdrew its support in 2012 by a margin of only five votes. This was then reversed in Hilary of this year, when Wadhamites voted to re-implement the measure.
The Wadham student union voted during Trinity term in favour of the extreme measure of having vegan food five days a week. This was also soon-after revoked with the college saying they had no plans to serve vegan-only food.
Then SU President of Wadham College Anya Metzer told the Cherwell, “ I am very pleased to see other colleges promoting meat-free diets and hope to see this movement gross across Oxford. Cutting down meat consumption is an easy way to make a difference and with college-catering on board it is even easier.”
Meatless Mondays is an international campaign designed to encourage people to eat less meat for environmental and health reasons. A recent Oxford study found that cutting to meat three days a week would save 45,000 lives as well as save the NHS £1.2 billion a year.
Regent’s decision comes on the back of the on-going ‘veggiepledge’: an Oxford University Student Union initiative to get students to turn vegan or vegetarian for some or all of November. The scheme has seen 250 students from over twenty colleges sign up.
Xavier Cohen, OUSU’s Environment & Ethics officer, told the Cherwell that “It’s fantastic to hear that Regent’s have voted to back a meat-free day. I strongly get the sense that, with things like the success of #VeggiePledge, a shift is taking place in the university community towards the active encouragement of more vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.
“But I think we still need to be discussing this more. The ethical and environmental concerns behind eating less in the way of animal products are rarely discussed in the public eye because they’re never seen to be topical. Though hopefully, with things like #VeggiePledge and this meat-free day at Regent’s, we’ll be seeing more in the way of this in our own local discourse.”
Students at other colleges seemed slightly more resistant to give up their steaks just yet. One first year PPEist at New College commented that while he wouldn’t mind giving up the meat, “the more choice the better”.