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Mansfield tops first ‘Veggie Norrington Table’

Mansfield College has won the award for the best Oxford college serving vegetarian and vegan food, beating off competition from Worcester and Kellogg.

The poll, launched at the beginning of Michaelmas term, asked members of the University to rank Oxford colleges according to their provision of vegetarian food.

The lowest-ranked colleges were Magdalen, followed by St John’s and Jesus.

Over 200 people voted in the so-called ‘Veggie Norrington Table’, which was organised by the Oxford University Animal Ethics Society. The ranking of the Colleges can be found here.

Society President Tobias Thornes said, “We all hope that this will encourage Oxford Colleges to improve their provision of vegetarian food. After all many colleges have fixed catering fees, which means students have to pay for the food whether they like it or not.”

All College Bursars were invited to state whether they provide vegetarian and vegan options, indicate whether they have chefs trained in vegetarian and vegan food, and supply a sample menu.

However, the table has come under fire from college bursars, who criticised the survey in a collective response of the Domestic Bursars’ Committee, saying “Many of us are very sceptical about the quality and quantity of responses your approach will bring.”

They took issue with the use of the name ‘Norrington’ as “misleading” and went on to say “some colleges have commented they don’t much care where they come in the proposed table.”

The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, the Animal Welfare Society’s Senior Member, said he was “disappointed” with the responses from domestic bursars. The society only received responses to its questions from eight of the 44 colleges it contacted.

The Oxford University Animal Welfare Society was founded in 2007, with the aim to “provide a forum for the discussion of the moral status of animals.”

Mansfield student and vegetarian Cat Bean told Cherwell “I’m surprised but pleased Mansfield came top of the veggie Norrington table. Mansfield’s food has always been of a really high standard and there are always a number of decent vegetarian mains on offer in hall. The catering staff are clearly making a consistent effort to vary the food served to students.”

In an anonymous student response to the survey, one Magdalen undergraduate described the college’s vegetarian provision as “incredibly expensive, always dripping in cheese and cream and generally awful. The college is stuck in the Middle Ages, food wise.”

St John’s, whose vegetarian provisions had been described as “the worst” in one response, told Cherwell that it was working to carry out recommendations from a review into its catering services conducted earlier this year. Prof Andrew Parker, St John’s Principal Bursar, said “the review recommended that training and research opportunities should be provided for kitchen staff to specifically address improving the provision of vegetarian food in College.

“The College has made a commitment to implement the review recommendations. This will take some time but the process of modernising menus and working practices is already underway. We therefore expect that students can see improvements over the coming months.”

Cherwell has contacted Magdalen College for comment.

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