This change applies to the meals ordered for e.g. employee meetings. It doesn’t apply to orders placed in the cafeteria or other catering establishments on campus. Up till now, the campus caterer Vitam included a variety of fillings like cold meats and cheese as a standard part of its lunch deliveries. While Vitam also offered vegetarian and vegan options, these needed to be specified beforehand on the order. This arrangement has now been reversed.

Setting a new standard

Recently appointed Rector Magnificus Rutger Engels applauded the initiative during the final University Council meeting of this academic year. “It may seem like a minor change, but it actually sets a new standard. Future generations of students in Rotterdam will learn that the normal option is vegetarian.”

The University Council borrowed the idea of introducing vegetarian lunches from Erasmus School of Economics. At ESE, they have even taken things a step further. There, behavioural economist Jan Stoop successfully argued for making vegan lunches the norm unless explicitly requested otherwise. The other faculties won’t be taking it that far: this move couldn’t count on widespread support within the University Council.

Mixed feelings

In a comment by e-mail, Jan Stoop says he has mixed feelings about the initiative of the university to introduce vegetarian meals by default. “On the one hand, it is a step in the right direction to reduce meat consumption. On the other hand, I think it is a missed opportunity. Vegetarian food causes a much greater burden on the environment than vegan food. Why wouldn’t EUR go for a maximal impact? Caterer Vitam has proven to serve very tasty vegan food, so I will continue to enjoy it at the ESE.”

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