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Strong start for OUSU’s #VeggiePledge campaign

OUSU’s #VeggiePledge campaign launched on Wednesday, aiming to encourage students to turn vegetarian or vegan for the month of November.

Pledgers are invited to take on their own tailor-made ‘Veggie Pledge’, which involves eating vegetarian or vegan food for at least one day a week over the next month, with some pledgers planning on going vegan for the entire month.

OUSU’s Environment and Ethics Officer Xavier Cohen told Cherwell, “We want to show that being veggie and vegan is not only doable, but enjoyable, whilst also highlighting the environmental benefits of consuming less meat and fewer animal products.

“#VeggiePledge is also an intercollegiate competition. The pledgers from the college with the most pledges will win a trip to The Gardeners Arms — Oxford’s veggie and vegan friendly pub — with £100 behind the bar.”

Prospective pledgers are required to post their name, college, and tailor-made pledge on the wall of the campaign’s Facebook group.

Cohen added, “#VeggiePledge is also a collective endeavour, and as such, we’re encouraging people to post photos and recipes. #VeggiePledge finally makes it acceptable to post pictures of food on social media again!”

After Cohen predicted that it would be “exploding on social media” on Wednesday, the total number of pledges made by the end of the day topped 150. Wadham, Balliol, and Worcester led the college charts early on.

The Facebook page also shared statistics about how much land, water and CO2 could be saved by avoiding meat for varying numbers of days per week, claiming that “going veggie” for one day a week saves 29 square-metres of land, 1,611 litres of water, and 8kg of CO2.

Balliol alumnus Marc Pacitti was, however, critical of the statistics presented by the campaign. He claimed, “The contributions to land use and pollution won’t be linear in participants or length of participation — it would probably be exponential with a wide base (due to sticky price type forces like contracts).

“There is no reason to think the programme will get anywhere off the bottom of the curve. The impact people will likely have is so marginal it equals zero. There is no way that they can give a figure that fits for each person who joins up in terms of how much good they do.

“Anyway, the best way to decrease meat production is to stop subsidising it. Perhaps people would be better off writing to their MEPs and asking them to remove subsidies for livestock from the Common Agricultural Policy.”

Cohen was quick to justify the campaign’s claims, informing Cherwell that the statistics are derived from academic papers.

However, he added that “levelling criticism here wilfully misses the point of #VeggiePledge”. He explained, “We are trying to encourage shifts in popular habits and societal views on the matters at hand. We know for a fact that vegetarianism and veganism are not only better for our planet environmentally than meat-eating, but are becoming increasingly necessary in fighting climate change.

“#VeggiePledge is a humble campaign aimed at increasing the rate of take-up of these lifestyles over time — just because it isn’t going to solve climate change alone, that’s no good reason not to support it.” 

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