What does the rise in veganism mean for Stirling?

7 mins read

Veganism has been steadily becoming more prevalent in everyday life over the past few years and Stirling is not the exception. With more people choosing to go plant based for environmental reasons or animal rights reasons, vegan food options have been expanding.

Stirling has been at the forefront of national news in recent weeks for an unexpected decision by Stirling University’s Student Union. On November 10 the student body voted to have their Union provide solely vegan food by 2025, a first across Scotland and the UK.

This has been a controversial decision within both the university and the wider Stirling community. The decision will affect over 14,000 students in the University and potentially the livelihood and jobs of those who work at the changing establishments.

The official motion states the intention is to be 50% plant-based by the beginning of the 2023/24 Academic Year, with 100% to be achieved no later than 2025.

Scotland as a whole has had an interesting relationship with veganism. The very crux of veganism threatens dairy and livestock farming as well as the fish industry, all of which are key components to the Scottish economy.

A publication by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs in September 2022 shows that 67,400 people in Scotland were employed by the agricultural sector in the UK the previous year. On top of this, 80% of Scotland’s total land area is in agricultural production.

However, Edinburgh and Glasgow have turned into vegan hubs with the amount of options they offer across their cities. In a recent poll both cities were in the top 10 cities in the UK for vegan food.

Considering Stirling is nowhere near the level of Edinburgh and Glasgow with vegan options, the revolutionary decision came as a shock to many in the town and the university itself.

Many students are unhappy with the veganism decision with a mere 120 students voting yes on the motion, which was enough to put it through. If students stop going to the union because of this decision, many jobs could be at risk.

At the other end of Stirling’s vegan lifestyle, HBW Coffee, Stirling’s only completely vegan café, made the decision earlier in November to begin to introduce non-vegan options to their menu.

The statement on the cafe’s website detailed how the owner felt that in order to be able to continue growing the business, paying bills and employing staff, he needed to find a new way to appeal to more people who lived in Stirling.

 I believe the best course of action is to introduce non-vegan products including eggs and meat to our brunch menu. Rather than the places you know which have passable vegan options, we can be a place that serves mostly vegan food, with decent non-vegan options.

Conor, owner of HBW Coffee

The effect on the vegan lifestyle is an unexpected side effect to the cost of living crisis the country is currently facing.

The juxtaposition between the two sides of veganism in Stirling is concerning for the university’s change in direction. HBW’s decision shows that providing a 100% vegan option is unsustainable long term in Stirling. It raises the question of is Stirling ready for such a radical change in its university and will it be successful?

Within the university catering options there are several other choices for students that will not be affected by the new motion. This may create a massive potential for the bypassing and neglect of the Union in favour of meat and dairy options.

A café/restaurant that provides brilliant vegan options and has stood the test of time is Cafe Aina. The Greek restaurant is a favourite among vegans in Stirling for its plethora of options across burgers, salads and more traditional Greek options, like souvlaki.

The café has firmly retained its status as a vegan hotspot but at the same time offers mainly meat and dairy options making it accessible for everyone. This structure might be the way forward in making vegan options accessible but still being able to attract enough customers to thrive.

The idea that veganism is the only option or solution to the climate problem is becoming steadily outdated. Many vegan options are just as unsustainable, like the importation of avocados or the production method of soy or almond milk.

The popular Bridge of Allan dairy farm, Grahams, recently showed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon around the Stirling dairy farm and the changes they’re making for the environment like their heat decarbonisation project. This was part of Scotland’s climate week that the Government launched alongside their flagship Scottish Industrial Energy Transformation Fund.  

To be able to show the First Minister around our dairy and talk through our journey to net zero through investments such as the SIETF heat decarbonisation project was fantastic.  We look forward to continuing to make award winning dairy products for our customers through sustainable and innovative production processes.

Robert Graham, MD

People’s concern for the environment and animal rights are changing the infrastructure of cities across the UK. Stirling is no different but there appears to be no cohesive understanding on how to handle and integrate veganism into day-to-day life and at what level. Veganism is becoming more prevalent quicker than anticipated in Stirling and it will be interesting to see what comes out on top – local business or a plant-based lifestyle.

Featured Image credit: The Vegan and Rights for Animals Society, HBW Coffee Facebook, Visit Scotland

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Film, Media and Journalism student who writes about things that catch her interest. Instagram @charlsutcliffe

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