The Magdalen College JCR passed a motion supporting Meat-Free Mondays at its general meeting on Sunday. Proposed by Jack Evans and seconded by Matthew Steggles, the motion mandates the JCR’s Environment and Ethics Representative “to speak to the college on behalf of the JCR in favour of instating meat-free Mondays”.
Cutting back on meat consumption for at least one day in the week is not a new idea, but it has grown in popularity in recent years and has attracted support from Sir Paul McCartney, amongst other celebrities. Jesus, Brasenose, Wadham and New College JCRs passed motions in full or partial support of the scheme in 2010. Others have followed suit. Regent’s Park backed the scheme last Hilary and, in Michaelmas, Brasenose also voted to support meatless Mondays in full. Lincoln College have a system where vegetarian cuisine is the “default” option for dinner on Mondays, effectively making meat opt-in for one day of the week.
Some proponents argue that supporting the scheme will provide a greater choice and quality of vegetarian food, and promote healthy living. But many of the debates have focused on environmental factors: as the Magdalen motion notes, “the production of meat is responsible for a significant proportion of our carbon footprint”. According to recent research, livestock rearing accounts for 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions. With meat consumption set to rise by 75% by 2050, this paints a worrying picture: the think tank Chatham House concluded in 2014 that “Dietary change is essential if global warming is not to exceed 2°C”.
Not all colleges have been able to implement meat-free days in hall quite so smoothly. Trinity are still negotiating with their Governing Body over the matter. They have reached a compromise with and are hoping to implement vegetarian formal dinners once a week in the near future. According to the JCR President Cate Moore: “Trinity will hopefully be introducing a meat-free formal for JCR and MCR members once a week in the near future. This still requires a little more discussion but, as ever, there are vegetarian and vegan options at every meal and hopefully the ‘meat-free’ campaign at Trinity will have made these options more popular throughout the week giving everyone the opportunity to choose their meat-free days”.
Somerville has also struggled to implement the idea. The matter was debated in the JCR back in 2012–13 and passed, although opposition from part of the undergraduate population forced another vote. Despite gaining a mandate for a second time, the MCR failed to support the motion and it was abandoned. In Michaelmas 2014, the JCR voted for fully meat-free Mondays and Thursdays, but the proposals were voted down in a referendum. Since the debate, meals on Monday have included an additional vegetarian option, but no other changes have occurred.
Speaking exclusively to The Oxford Student, the current Environment and Ethics rep, Fairlie Kirkpatrick Baird, said that she is working with members of the MCR and JCR “to push for completely meat-free Mondays, or failing that to reach a consensus about what type of meat reduction would be acceptable to all common rooms”. Although she is in favour of going fully vegetarian on Mondays, she is open to compromise: “my ultimate goal is to reduce meat consumption in college due to the extremely harmful effects of meat on the environment, and therefore I would prefer a compromise of some sort that complete lack of action.”