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Goldsmiths’ beef ban: meating our climate’s needs, or a massive missteak?

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As a push towards reducing the environmental impact their university is having on the world around it, Goldsmiths in London has announced their plans to ban the sale of any beef product on campus.

The university is taking the current climate change crisis we’re facing into their own hands to actively improve its carbon footprint, which can only be a good thing! Beef is ridiculously bad for the environment, as it uses 28 times more land and 11 times more water for its production and distribution than other meats like chicken or pork. The environmental impact of your beef burger might not be the first thing on your mind at lunchtime, but it’s actually really important to consider and I admire Goldsmiths for doing its bit to encourage their students to do this when eating on campus.

Goldsmiths has made the controversial decision to ban the sale of all beef products on campus
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Full disclosure: I’m a vegetarian for mostly animal cruelty reasons so naturally I am in full support of any scheme that reduces the demand for animal products, contributing to less animal agriculture. In an ideal world (for me anyway) there’d be no meat sold on campuses at all to really make a point, but this is a step in the right direction that has multiple great consequences. 

“Taking away the option to eat beef on campus would help many people be more ethical without even really thinking about it”
I’m trying to make ethical and environmentally-conscious decisions in my life, and it just makes sense that taking away the option to eat beef on campus would help many people be more ethical without even really thinking about it. It’s an interesting move for Goldsmiths to go beyond acknowledging the existence of the environment, or just investing the bare minimum in renewable energies to appear to be productive, and to fully embrace their powerful position as an established institution and pushing forwards these real changes. As well as their beef ban, they are aiming to be carbon neutral by 2025 by beginning to divest in companies that benefit from fossil fuels, reducing their single-use plastics on campus and investing in solar panels. Newcastle has its own sustainability policy that aims to minimise water use, reduce energy consumption and prevent pollution, and recently declared a climate emergency in a statement with commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and aim for zero carbon dioxide emission by 2040 – notably behind Goldsmiths’ own commitments, but is by no means sitting idly by. However, I wonder if Goldsmiths could start an environmentally-conscious trend with more universities banning beef or taking other significant public steps to protect the environment. It’s all well and good having a policy but few students will know about this, whereas swapping plastic water fountain cups to biodegradable options across campus or indeed removing beef products from campus shelves would gain much more attention and a visible impact.

Universities are where information, research and understandings of the world are fostered and grow – they should be at the forefront of fighting climate change

We’re not here to discuss whether climate change exists (because it does), but rather the role that institutions and companies have in fighting the near-definite catastrophic temperature rise that climate change experts are predicting. Yes, we can make good choices ourselves and work on reducing our individual environmental impact, but that will always have individual results. We need to call on institutions to take drastic changes and to stand up and declare a climate emergency and actually do something about it! Universities are where information, research and understandings of the world are fostered and grow – they should be at the forefront of fighting climate change. Goldsmiths’ promises are a great start to what I hope to be a flood of other universities following suit and taking climate change more seriously. Let’s call on Newcastle University to take a stand too and help us save this planet before it’s too late.

Last modified: 14th August 2019

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