CONJURE up images of dining in an Oxford college, and pictures of formal halls with tables laden with dishes of game and other meats may spring to mind. But one group of students at the University of Oxford is trying to modernise the college dining experience by ranking colleges according to their vegetarian and vegan fare.
The initiative from the university’s Animal Ethics Society hopes to challenge colleges to improve on the quality of their catering for vegetarians and vegans.
The results of a survey will be published in the style of the Norrington Table, which ranks colleges by their examination results.
The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey is a senior member of the society. He said: “Oxford is known as a place of excellence, but its vegetarian fare is often barely adequate. We believe that the quality of provision of veggie food influences prospective students’ choice of colleges.
“Since most students have no alternative but to pay for their meals at college, it seems only right that they should know whether the food served up will be adequate.”
The president of the society, Felix Taylor, of St Hugh’s College, is a second-year student and has been vegan for three years.
He said that the survey asked students to rate the three best colleges and the three worst. In a similar survey three years ago, Mansfield College came out on top, and Magdalen was the worst.
Since then, an increasing number of students have become vegetarian or vegan, he said — and some colleges have even recruited chefs who are specially trained in vegetarian and vegan cooking.
“A vegetarian or vegan diet is growing in popularity, and students have to pay the same price for food in college, whether they eat meat or not; so it makes sense to try to encourage colleges to try to improve their catering,” he said. “It’s unfair to force these students to go outside college to forage for their own food, just because the choice of college food is poor. It doesn’t go with the spirit of community that colleges are trying to encourage.”