The department are cutting out meat from all meetings and events to improve wellbeing and reduce their environmental impact.
UCL’s Psychology and Language Sciences department has announced that it is going fully vegetarian, following an agreement made at the PALS Staff Meeting on December 6th 2018. As of this month, all food at catered PALS events will be completely meat-free.
The department decided to undertake the initiative for environmental reasons. PALS has been recognised as the greenest department at UCL for five years in a row and, as the overall winner of the annual Green UCL Sustainability Awards, PALS’s Green Impact Team was also named UCL Sustainability Leaders and Greenest Department at the 2018 ceremony. In addition, they completed six eco-friendly projects, which included creating a small garden behind Chandler House with as many recycled items as possible and conducting a study on whether different ways of communication can influence people to eat more vegetarian food.
John Draper, Head of UCL PALS Administration, proposed the initiative on behalf of the Green Impact Team and was pleased at how the department responded. The Head of PALS, Professor Peter Fonagy, said that the the department’s strategic objective in 2019 was to improve staff wellbeing, and affirmed that “the decision to exclude meat products from Division-funded functions is in line with this objective”, pointing to increasing evidence of non-consumption of meat being linked to enhanced welfare.
The main focus of the initiative, however, is the way that the benefits of going vegetarian extend well beyond the individual. A New York Times article estimates that between 14.5% and 18% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, “livestock is the world’s largest user of land resources, with grazing land and cropland dedicated to the production of feed representing almost 80% of all agricultural land.” The meat industry also accounts for a large section of global water use, as well as significantly contributing to water pollution.
In October,The Guardian reported that “huge reductions in meat-eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change,” based on recent research published Nature examining how food production influences the global environment. In another article for The Guardian, Oliver Milman writes that “eating less meat is the best thing you can do for the planet in 2019.” Scientists have increasingly been singling out this lifestyle change as a key way for ordinary people to help.
UCL Sustainability Director Richard Jackson said that PALS “are leading the way in sustainability by going 100% vegetarian”. The division has received widespread praise and admiration for their initiative from across the student and staff body of UCL.
Another group at the forefront of sustainability efforts at UCL is the Vegan and Vegetarian Society, whose ‘50by2020’ campaign is aiming for at least 50% of the university’s overall food consumption becoming vegan by next year. The society is working with the Union to make vegetarian food more prominent on food displays in canteens, as well as making vegan food the default option, and labelling non-vegetarian products as “meat” – subverting the current practice of only labelling food as “vegan”.
“We really want to see progressive change happening this year”, said Yashvini Shukla, the society’s Campaigns Officer, sharing hopes for a fully vegan campus in the future. The campaign will launch on January 28th in collaboration with Imperial College London.