Cambridge College to host first 'plant-based' May Ball in 200 years | Totally Vegan Buzz
Cambridge College to host first 'plant-based' May Ball in 200 years
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The move comes after the University Of Cambridge voted in favour of removing animal products from their offerings in favour of an all-vegan menu

A Cambridge University college has decided to adopt an all-vegan menu for its May Ball celebrations.

Darwin College will serve only plant-based food at its “Orient Express” themed ball this year.

The annual event, which is held at the end of the academic year, is a tradition that dates back to 1866.

The move comes after the University of Cambridge voted to remove animal products from their offerings in favour of an all-vegan menu.

‘Darwin is the first to have a vegan menu’

Second-year PhD student Harrison Whitaker from Darwin College is part of the May Ball Committee.

He told the Cambridge Independent: “I’ve been a supply chain officer since the start of the year.

“Out of 33 colleges at the University of Cambridge, 25 have a May Ball.

“The May Ball at Darwin will have 650 attendees: Darwin is the first and only one to have a vegan menu.”

‘Fairly organic’ decision

According to the organisers, the idea was floated by a few members of the May Ball Committee, and it ‘caught on’.

He added: “The decision-making process was fairly organic. A couple of the 20 May Ball committee members were interested in going vegan, the suggestion was discussed, and we talked to vendors. It was when we realised we could have as good, if not better, supplies if we offered a vegan menu that the idea caught on.

“There are plenty of food options from five vendors, including savoury dishes and desserts. This year we have an Orient Express theme – Paris, Venice, and Istanbul, so for instance, there’ll be pizzas for the Venice part of the menu.”

‘Darwin’s greenest yet’

A college spokesperson told The Times: This year’s ball is going to be Darwin’s greenest yet… A plant-based menu is paramount to the successful realisation of this aim.

“We consider this to be an opportunity to showcase the diversity and ingenuity of vegan cuisine.”

The organisers added that they wanted to show how ‘to throw a world-class party while minimising your environmental impact’.

Mixed responses

However, not everyone appreciated Darwin’s decision to serve only vegan food at their upcoming May Ball.

A committee member admitted to receiving some pushback as guests are accustomed to indulgent cuisine at the luxury black tie event.

Committee co-president Toby Brann said: “We’re trying to show that this particularly lavish Cambridge tradition can be done in a sustainable way.”

He added: “There is a tendency with the general consumer to assume that potentially the vegan alternative is less superior.

“It’s not us taking the cheaper option or something like that—actually, it’s going to be a significant part of this ball.”

Darwin’s Ball will be held on 23 June. Tickets for the event cost £150 and upwards.

Growing shift in attitudes 

Animal agriculture uses 83% of global farmland while contributing only 18% of the world’s calories. Moreover, it is responsible for 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. With the climate crisis looming large, younger people are becoming more aware of the destructive role of the animal-based food industry.

This has led to a growing shift in attitudes toward meat and dairy, especially in the younger population.

A study conducted last year revealed that almost half of Gen-Zers (born between 1997 and 2012) felt guilty when consuming dairy products. The study also noted that a quarter of respondents believed that eliminating animal products from their diets was the most effective approach for safeguarding the environment.

Universities going plant- based

Many educational institutions globally are adopting eco-friendly measures by reducing meat options and increasing plant-based alternatives on their campuses. 

Last year, 20 campuses in the UK joined forces to request meat-free food options. Animal Rising (formerly Animal Rebellion) is backing the collective, whose main motivation is the  environmental impact of meat and dairy.

In Berlin, 34 universities have committed to reducing meat options on campus, while several colleges in the United States have also pledged to provide more plant-based options to their students.

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