LSE Union bans beef as climate crisis continues

LSE Students’ Union members have voted to “ban beef at LSE” by a narrow majority. The School insists that the vote is not binding.

The motion was passed last month, supported by 243 students, to 170 students in opposition.

A photograph of two cows next to one another, by Doruk Yemenici.
Photo Credit: Doruk Yemenici.

The move comes just three months after the Union voted to declare a climate emergency last November. By declaring a climate emergency, the Union has committed itself to implementing more environmentally friendly policies across the London School of Economics and Political Science. They also plan to distance themselves from institutions and products which harm the environment.

The February motion to ban beef is based on research which shows that “beef production is associated with the greatest environmental degradation.” Beef production takes up high quantities of land and food, and the beef industry consumes 11 times more water than other livestock.

But the motion is proving controversial at LSE. An article published by Mail Online invited the public to comment on the ban. One user, Sablon0776 from Oldham, commented, “Close it down! Cut off funding!” Another user, xoldhamer from Swansea, wrote, “How much CO2 and CH4 do the 7.7 billion people of the world produce in one year? Maybe we should do a cull, starting with students.”

A MailOnline comment by user Sablon0776: "Close it down! Cut off funding!"
A MailOnline comment by the user xoldhamer: "How much CO2 and CH4 do the 7.7 billion people of the world produce in 1 year? Maybe we should do a cull, starting with students." 21 people have upvoted the comment.
Mail Online users comment on the beef ban at LSE.

Even at the Central London university, students at the debate expressed worries that vegetarian or vegan diets were being foisted upon the student body, although this was contested by students who pointed out that there are several outlets around the university where other students can buy meat products.

LSE is one of many universities across the UK to aspire to net-zero carbon emissions. The University of Cambridge has already declared that cutting beef and lamb from its menus in 2019 reduced food-related carbon emission by a third.

The University of Edinburgh also voted against beef with a tight 51% majority in January this year, but a subsequent student-wide referendum with 6,000 participants produced a 58% majority in opposition to the motion.

Critics of the beef ban argue that it forcibly restricts students’ choice, and that much British land “could not be used for anything other than livestock.”

There was also a rise in tensions as a frustrated group of student farmers from a college associated with Edinburgh University were escorted out of a debating hall by security, allegedly because of overcrowding concerns.

As the climate crisis continues and more universities across the UK face pressure from their students and staff to honour their climate commitments, the beef issue seems sure to take a prominent place on dining tables and debates at universities.

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