DefaultVeg

Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics square purple and white logo

To align our food practices with our commitments to rational reflection on the most salient ethical issues of our time, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics is adopting DefaultVeg for all meetings and events that we host. This commitment sets the default and easiest option to plant-based foods, in recognition of scientific research on the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet and philosophical research by Singer and others on our relationship to animals.

Dr Katrien Devolder (OUC Senior Research Fellow and DefaultVeg Ambassador) says:

 “The Uehiro Centre is committed to examining, understanding, and addressing 21st Century ethical challenges, including the environmental, health, and animal welfare costs of industrial animal agriculture. We are therefore adopting DefaultVeg for all meetings and events hosted by the Centre. This commitment allows us to shift our purchasing power towards plant-based foods, while still preserving freedom of choice for every meal."

DefaultVeg is an international partnership between three organisations; The UK Food Plan, CreatureKind and The Better Food Foundation. Each partner shares the goal to change the way organisations think about and source their food.

DefaultVeg is run in the UK by the UK Food Plan and led in United States by The Better Food Foundation. Download brochure here.

It is a simple and inclusive way to offer healthier and more sustainable meals.  Menus feature plant-based meals as the default option, while giving diners the choice to add or opt into meat and/or dairy options upon request. Research shows that by simply changing the default, consumers are much more likely to choose a plant-based meal, even when meat and dairy options are available.1 

1 Adam Meier, "Workshop on Behavioral Insights and Health", Harvard School of Public Health.

For more information visit https://www.defaultveg.org.uk/

To achieve our aim, where Centre funds are used for catering we will follow these best practices: 

Office refreshments
For teas and coffees, a selection of plant-based milks are provided by default.  OUC Members working at the Centre are offered the opportunity to opt-in to dairy.

Catering for meetings and workshops
Hot drinks: We will provide two plant-based milk options, and one dairy option. 
Food: We have engaged with local suppliers who can provide a predominantly vegan menu. We will alert our participants to our DefaultVeg commitment whilst offering them the opportunity to opt-in to dairy and meat/dairy products.

College dinners
Where possible we will arrange for three options per course: two vegan and one meat/dairy. Again, we will alert our participants to our DefaultVeg commitment whilst offering them the opportunity to opt-in to the meat menu option.  If it is not possible to offer three choices, we will default to two: one vegan and one meat/dairy.

Restaurants
Where possible we will work with our local restaurants to devise party menus that offer two plant-based and one meat/dairy option as above. If it is not possible to offer three choices, we will default to two: one vegan and one meat/dairy.

Katrien Devolder's Practical Ethics in the News blog post Oxford Uehiro Centre Goes DefaultVeg (11 October 2021)

World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future: A Menu of Solutions to Feed Nearly 10 Billion People by 2050 (which has a Paris-compliant pathway for the food and agriculture sector for 2050).

Can we feed the world without destroying the planet? The ‘World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future’ shows that it is possible – but there is no silver bullet.

Springmann, Marco, HCJ Godfray, Mike Rayner and Peter Scarborough. Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Cobenefits of Dietary Change PNAS 113:15 (2016), 4146–4151.

Summary by PCRM.org: "Vegetarian and vegan diets are best for the environment and human health, according to research published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Researchers assessed several regional models that incorporated environmental, economic and health impacts associated with a dietary change in the future. Diets compared included proportional reduction in animal products, reduced or meat-free diets, and diets based on current health standards. A shift to a plant-based diet projected reductions in global mortality and greenhouse gases caused by food production by 10 percent and 70 percent, respectively, compared with a control scenario set in 2050. A global dietary shift would save an estimated 79 million human lives and avoid 5.1 million deaths per year. Estimates for a completely vegan diet project closer to 129 million lives saved and 8.1 million deaths avoided. These projections also saw trillions of dollars saved in health care costs by 2050."

Benton, Tim G., Carling Bieg, Helen Harwatt, Roshan Pudasaini and Laura Wellesley. Food System Impacts on Biodiversity Loss: Three Levers for Food System Transformation in Support of Nature. Chatham House. 3 February 2021. Accessed 6 February 2021.

This paper explores the role of the global food system as the principal driver of accelerating biodiversity loss. It explains how food production is degrading or destroying natural habitats and contributing to species extinction. The paper outlines the challenges and trade-offs involved in redesigning food systems to restore biodiversity and/or prevent further biodiversity loss, and presents recommendations for action.

Referenced in The Guardian, Plant-based diets crucial to saving global wildlife, says report, 3 February 2021.

EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report (2019).

"Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts. Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits."

IPBES Workshop on Biodiversity and Pandemics. IPBES 2020.

Pandemics represent an existential threat to the health and welfare of people across our planet. The scientific evidence reviewed in this report demonstrates that pandemics are becoming more frequent, driven by a continued rise in the underlying emerging disease events that spark them. Without preventative strategies, pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, kill more people, and affect the global economy with more devastating impact than ever before. Current pandemic strategies rely on responding to diseases after their emergence with public health measures and technological solutions, in particular the rapid design and distribution of new vaccines and therapeutics. However, COVID-19 demonstrates that this is a slow and uncertain path, and as the global population waits for vaccines to become available, the human costs are mounting, in lives lost, sickness endured, economic collapse, and lost livelihoods.

IPCC Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC.

"The leading scientists behind the 2018 IPCC report warned that we have a mere 12 years to keep global temperatures under 1.5 degrees Celsius, beyond which only half a degree more will dramatically increase chances of flooding, drought, and extreme heat." 

Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission: Food Planet Health: Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems.

"Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts. Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits."

Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017The Lancet 393: 10184 (2019), 1958–1972.

This study finds that poor diet is linked to one in five deaths worldwide. “Among all forms of malnutrition, poor dietary habits — particularly low intake of healthy foods — is the leading risk factor for mortality.”

See more at https://onlineacademiccommunity.uvic.ca/defaultveg/resources/. With thanks to the University of Victoria, Canada, for curating these resources.