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Oxford may expel beef and lamb

The university is under pressure to act after its students' union voted to ban red meat on campus

Posted : 4 December 2020

It tends to be students and lecturers who are kicked out of university in disgrace. But the boot could soon be applied to red meat if Oxford University’s Student Union has its way.

A ban on serving beef and lamb on campus canteens has won the overwhelming support of students and puts Oxford’s leaders under pressure to take steps to strike these most environmentally unfriendly of foods from the menu. Cows generate five times the harmful emissions of other livestock, use 11 times the amount of water and require 28 times the amount of land to farm.

The proposed ban decried the university for a “lack of leadership” in reducing its carbon footprint and called the ban on beef and lamb at university-catered venues and outlets “a feasible and effective strategy” to help the university meet its goal of cutting its peak emissions in half by 2030.

Two-thirds of the student union council voted for the motion, which also obliges the union to “request fortnightly meetings with the university authorities to advocate for the adoption of a university policy surrounding meat reduction and removal … especially in respect of beef and lamb”. Red meat consumption needs to fall by 80 per cent in Britain and other rich countries to protect the planet.

Individual Oxford colleges, including WadhamRegent’s Park and Pembroke, as well as Jesus, Brasenose and New College, have been making their own efforts to tackle meat eating. While Oxford is under no obligation to accede to the wishes of the union, the students argue that the university’s anti-racism policy obliges it to act to stop global heating, which will disproportionately affect poorer countries.

Ben Farmer, the union’s representative for charities and the community, welcomed the mandate to push for discussions on making Oxford a beacon of enlightened eating as well as more general enlightenment. “Food-based changes are just one part of changes we’d like to see the university make to tackle the climate crisis,” he said.

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