By Ellie Brown, News Subeditor
University of Bristol catered halls and Bristol SU's Balloon Bar are no longer serving meat on Mondays, Epigram can reveal.
The first ‘Meat Free Monday’ took place in catered accommodation on Monday September 23 for the second breakfast and dinner served since new students arrived for Freshers’ Week. Instead of the usual meat and two veg, students will be offered only vegetarian and vegan meals on this day of the week, with meat substitutes, such as jackfruit, tofu and banana blossom, featuring heavily on the revamped menu.
September 23 was also the first Monday when no meat was served in Bristol SU’s Balloon Bar.
This change comes after the University declared a Climate Emergency earlier this year and SU Student Living Officer George Bemrose pledged in his manifesto to ‘work with the University to reach their goal of being Carbon Neutral by 2030’.
According to Darren Tooley, Acting Head of Catering for the University, the meals offered on Mondays have smaller carbon footprints than those with meat and the cost of the ingredients hasn’t changed.
‘We have thought about doing Meat Free Mondays for a while, but it was George Bemrose’s advocacy which made us decide to go for it. He really pushed for the policy and has plans to promote it so that it would be a success.’
The scheme was trialled a few years ago, but was put in place partway through the academic year and quickly abandoned.
‘Having the scheme start from the beginning of the year was George’s idea so students can get used to it, as was using posters to explain to students why we’re doing it. It’s important that students don’t feel they’re being denied something for no reason.
‘As well as the University’s own sustainability targets, we felt there was a clear mandate from the student body to introduce the policy.’
Results from the SU’s ‘Food For Thought’ survey in 2018 said a third of Bristol students did not eat meat that year. Meanwhile only 24 per cent thought the University catered for their dietary requirements. George Bemrose told Epigram these findings also influenced the decision to go ahead with Meat Free Mondays.
George Bemrose said: ‘When I started my role, I thought I would have to really fight for this policy. I was surprised and delighted by how supportive the staff were, and didn’t expect it to be introduced so soon.
‘There is always more that can be done of course. Other universities, such as Cambridge and Goldsmiths, have removed beef and lamb from all catering outlets on campus.
‘There are motions at others to ban meat completely – although personally I think this would be too radical.
‘Meat Free Mondays are a more gradual change. Though it does reduce the carbon emissions of catering at halls, and students affected will only be having two meals a week without meat. If they feel they’re missing out, there is always the option of having meat for lunch that day [since weekday lunches aren’t provided by catered halls].’
There are currently no plans to formally measure the success of the scheme, although Bristol SU agrees that this is needed. Catering menus operate on a five-week cycle, so there could be a delay before any negative feedback is addressed.
Overall, George Bemrose is confident in the policy: ‘Due to the climate emergency, attitudes to meat eating have changed in the last couple of years. Young people today are much more understanding than other generations.
‘Hopefully this will improve students’ awareness of the sustainability issues surrounding meat and show them that it’s possible to reduce their intake – even if it’s just two meals a week.’
Featured image: Epigram/Claudia Dupe
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