Opinion | Meat-Free Mondays don't 'meat' the climate crisis

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By Shoshana Cohen, Second Year English

As of last week, “Meat Free Mondays” have now hit the University of Bristol; with catered accommodation and the SU Balloon Bar not serving any meat on Mondays. This development comes soon after the university declared a climate emergency and reflects the concerns of students and the wider population of the impact of the meat industry on the environment.

Meat-free Mondays aren't enough | Epigram / Elisha Mans

As the damage human beings have been doing to the environment becomes less sustainable and more dangerous, and with the rise of figures such as Greta Thunberg, and movements including Extinction Rebellion, it has become clear that we are indeed facing a climate emergency.

Some plants and meat-alternatives have higher carbon emissions

And so, environmental vegetarianism and veganism has become more popular, with the rise of campaigns such as “Veganuary” (however you pronounce that!). A concept such as “Meat Free Monday” aims to encourage individuals to make a small change and contribute something in order to help save our planet.

However, the idea that not eating meat is better for the environment is not universally accepted in the scientific world.

Some plants and meat-alternatives have higher carbon emissions in terms of production and transportation than some types of meat. Importing fruits typically grown in faraway countries with warmer climates, such as banana blossoms and jackfruits, is not better for the environment than local and sustainably produced meat.

Most students will be little, if at all, affected by this policy

Further, catered halls only serve two meals on Mondays: breakfast and dinner. Not serving meat at two meals a week, to a relatively small proportion of the student population is not going to have the impact needed in the face of climate change.

Most university students do not live in catered halls; most students will be little, if at all, affected by this policy.  

This is definitely a step in the right direction – given that the foods on the meat-free menus do have a smaller carbon footprint than the meat they are replacing. However, it appears to be quite a small step.

A lot more needs to be done to stop the damage we are doing to the environment

Of course, the university cannot impose environmental vegetarianism on all of its students. But a lot more needs to be done to stop the damage we are doing to the environment. Goldsmiths University, for example, has completely banned beef – which has a dangerously high carbon footprint - from being sold on its' campus. An action like that is necessary if the University of Bristol wants to fulfill its pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2030.

Climate change is, as the university has recognised, an emergency. More than “Meat-Free Monday” is needed to avert it.

Featured: Epigram / Elisha Mans


What do you think of Meat-Free Mondays, are they a positive step, or just not good enough?

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