The Association of Colleges has offered a poultry concession to its annual conference delegates after backlash over a decision to offer a vegetarian-only menu at its annual two-day event this November.
An email to delegates last night admitted that “mixed feedback” had been received on the organisation’s plant-based proposal, designed to reduce the event’s carbon footprint.
The former chief executive of the Education and Training Foundation, David Russell, commented on the FE Week website at the time that “if anyone is griping about this, I think that’s disappointing. Everyone can eat vegetarian/vegan food, and nowadays it’s every bit as delicious and nutritious as eating meat, as well as being more inclusive and better for the planet. Well done AoC, this is great.”
However, delegates are now being offered a “time-limited option” to opt-in for a “locally sourced chicken alternative” for the main conference dinner. Preferences must be updated via the AoC’s conference booking website by 1pm on October 31.
“After this date and time, the chicken alternative will not be available.”
The AoC said that last year’s annual conference generated 125 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and the veggie-only menu was one of several ways the organisation was looking at to cut its carbon footprint.
Other measures include a £2.50 carbon offset fee and asking conference exhibitors to avoid the use of single-use plastics.
One land-based college chair, Robert Lasseter of Kingston Maurward College, tweeted his disapproval at the AoC’s original decision: “There are far better ways of decarbonising conferences than going vegetarian. This does not sit well with land-based colleges. Ensuring all delegates travel by train will have a far greater effect.”
In an interview for this year’s colleges week, AoC chief executive David Hughes told FE Week he was “surprised at the strength of feeling from a number of people”, adding “we did get quite a few saying well done, it’s a good idea.
“We’re not about having a fight. We have arranged with the ICC [the conference venue] to offer an option for people who want to have sustainable organic chicken locally sourced.”