By Syirah Ami, Third Year Aerospace Engineering
Disclaimer: I’m vegan.
During Student Council, a motion was put forward to ban beef and lamb on campus. The motion ultimately failed, with a very close margin. As someone who doesn’t eat meat due to my existential fear of the climate crisis, what was disappointing about this wasn’t the fact that the motion was voted down; I was thinking of speaking against the motion myself, for reasons I’ll elaborate on. What was disappointing about it was the debate in Student Council.
I’ve already made enemies from vegans and non-vegans alike, just because I do believe that it isn’t the right time yet to ban beef and lamb on campus. I didn’t get the chance to say this at Student Council, but there was a discussion to be had about provisions for people with dietary requirements, eating disorders and disabilities.
When I went vegetarian three years ago, my energy levels dipped terribly despite supplements and protein-rich food. I’m anemic and I have virtually no energy without iron supplements anyway, but going vegetarian exacerbated that. Annoyingly, the suggested protein for anemics is – you guessed it – beef.
There was a discussion to be had about provisions for people with dietary requirements, eating disorders and disabilities
My problem with the motion to ban beef and lamb on campus is that there are unanswered questions on accessibility. I’ve now managed to find a vegan diet that ensures I don’t faint in the middle of a lecture, but before I achieved this, I was plant-based with a meat cheat day a month (with the anger of many vegan friends).
But the fact is, not everyone will be this lucky. There are people close to me with eating disorders who would go vegetarian if they could. There are people with allergies who choose non-veggie options because that is what is most accessible. There are people with disabilities who can’t immediately cut out beef and lamb.
While there are ways to make plant-based diets more accessible to all these people, we didn’t go into that discussion at all in Student Council.
Instead, we went into a discussion on why a beef and lamb ban would infringe on students’ freedom of choice. Here’s the thing: I don’t believe “I love the taste of meat!” is equal to “I can’t immediately change my diet due to accessibility issues”, at least in the context of a climate crisis. Essentially, I think the discussion should’ve been about accessibility rather than choice.
We’re fortunate to be in a city university, where there are options on Park Street, St Michael’s Hill or Queen’s Road that are cheaper (and nicer) than campus cafes. I have yet to find someone who ranks Source Cafe as their favourite lunch spot – in fact, if Source is your favourite cafe, contact me for cafe suggestions.
If we were worried about first years in halls, speakers against the motion could’ve introduced a friendly amendment to give exceptions to hall catering, just because first years probably do depend on catered food more than cafes. Other than those in catered halls, we’re spoilt for choice.
But the choices aren’t necessarily accessible. Even now, with the motion failing, vegan food in Source Cafes is more expensive than a beef sandwich. There are not enough vegan options in Source Cafe that don’t contain soya and gluten – and by “not enough”, I mean that there are none.
How can we structurally combat the climate emergency if the choices that are (somewhat) better for the environment are also choices that aren’t accessible to everyone? Surely, to convince people to stop eating beef and lamb, we’ll have to convince them the alternative choices are better?
To convince people to stop eating beef and lamb, we'll have to convince them the alternative choices are better
This ties back to my first point: we’re not ready for a beef and lamb ban yet. We need to make food that’s better for the environment, but also better for everyone. We need to convince people that vegan and veggie food are not only environmentally safer, but also more accessible.
We might as well also make veggie food tastier than meat – just for those who say, “I love the taste of meat!”. I don’t think we can just whack a beef and lamb ban in there.
I do see plant-based food going in a good direction. Restaurants like Suncraft have a menu that’s both plant-based and gluten-free. Many cafes have started charging less for non-meat options. Some vegan options are better than their meat alternatives, even in terms of protein (see the Gregg’s sausage roll). But this isn’t the case in campus cafes. Before we stop people from eating beef and lamb, we need to make sure everyone can access alternatives.
I may be ready for a beef and lamb ban, but not everyone is. Yet.
Featured Image: Nick Adlam
Do you think we are ready for a ban on campus? Let us know.