I/We propose that [insert organization/department/unit here] adopts a new catering policy. When we cater for events, we will order vegetarian food by default, and ask anyone who wants to eat meat to tick a box. Organizations who have adopted the policy report big overall reductions in consumption of animal products, without restricting anyone’s ability to choose what they want to eat.
Reducing consumption of animal products has a wide range of benefits for the environment, for animals, and for humans. For the environment it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. For animals, it reduces the demand for farmed animals, so fewer are drawn into unhappy lives in intensive systems. For humans it improves food and water security, contributes to healthier diets with lower disease risks, reduces the problem of growing antibiotic resistance, and reduces the risk of new zoonotic diseases such as swine and bird flu.
Pretty much everyone agrees that reducing consumption of animal products is a good idea, but achieving it is another matter. People like having choice about what they eat, so there’s sometimes resistance to taking meat options off the menu. A default vegetarian policy bypasses this objection. Everyone can still opt to eat whatever they want, but the net result in most contexts is still a big reduction in consumption of animal products. We can probably save money on catering costs, too.
It is true that dairy products and eggs are as bad or worse than many meat options for animal welfare and the environment, which would suggest that a preferable policy would be to make vegan food the default. We could start with a 50/50 split between vegetarian and vegan options, with the possibility that the proportion might be shifted towards vegan options over time.
Thank you for considering this proposal. If lots of organizations like ours make this change, it could make a big difference. I/We would be glad to discuss the details of how we could implement it.