Bishop Burton College, an agricultural college in the East Riding of Yorkshire, published a Facebook post on Monday 15th January announcing a Veganuary catering initiative involving Meat-Free Mondays and Wellbeing Wednesdays to promote healthy diets and sustainability.
However, following backlash from animal farmer and television personality Gareth Wyn Jones, Bishop Burton College took down the post from their Facebook account. College Principal Bill Meredith released a statement the following day to “apologise for the impression this gave to our wider farming community, stakeholders, students past, present and future.”   
The college’s decision to apologise has been described by Plant-Based Universities campaigners as “disheartening”, especially considering the backlash has predominantly come from external, uninvolved critics.
Gareth Wyn Jones and the Countryside Alliance have been criticised for creating a backlash to a “Veganuary” trial scheme at Bishop Burton College. The scheme, proposed and organised by staff and students at the college has been celebrated for “creating crucial conversation about the future of our food system” at the institution.
Conner Peters, a Wildlife and Conservation Management Student, Plant-Based Universities Bishop Burton campaigner and father of two said:
As a student at the college, I think Bishop Burton’s Veganuary catering trial gives students the opportunity to try first-hand the kinds of healthy, delicious and affordable meat-free dishes on offer. I am acutely aware of the need for us as a society to move away from our current food production system, and I understand the implications of this for our farmers and food producers.
The backlash against the initiative on Facebook and Twitter, which was mostly from people not studying or teaching at Bishop Burton, was disappointing but not surprising.
Farmers across the country have suffered in recent weeks following flooding, undeniably linked to the climate crisis. This is a climate crisis heavily linked to animal farming and fishing.
When will figureheads of the farming industry take a stand and look at our predicament for what it is? When will they advocate for a food system that will both tackle the climate emergency that Parliament has declared and support farmers?
Nathan McGovern, Plant-Based Universities Co-Founder said:
We applaud the positive steps taken at Bishop Burton and everyone involved in making this change happen. It’s vital that agricultural students and young farmers are engaged in transforming our food system into something sustainable, reliable, and secure.
However, it’s shameful to see Tim Bonner and the Countryside Alliance attempt to trample a campaign spearheaded by those actually working and studying at Bishop Burton - a clear attempt to shut down any productive conversation and progress.
Plant-Based Universities, an Animal Rising campaign, is an international initiative of students who are pushing for their universities and student unions to adopt 100% plant-based catering . The group claims that universities have an obligation to follow the scientific research that they produce, detailing the environmental impacts of animal farming and fishing. The campaign is active in over 80 institutions, with the group encouraging interested students to sign up to run local campaigns.
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