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  • Writer's pictureMike von Massow

Banning beef at Goldsmiths University of London not a big deal


Goldsmiths University of London announced on August 12th that they would no longer serve beef in on-campus outlets as part of a larger plan to move towards carbon neutrality. This has gotten considerable attention across the globe with divergent views on whether this is a good thing or not. I am conscious of my emissions and I still eat beef. I like having access to lunches with beef on campus but its not a critical issue relative to my ability to discuss the merits of beef and its contribution to climate change.

Critics suggest that banning beef takes away the opportunity for students and staff to make their own choices. They also suggest that the emissions from beef are poorly understood and that beef often gets unfairly criticized for its contribution to climate change. The debate on the role of beef in contributing to climate change is a discussion for another post. This post will specifically focus on the issue of banning a food product on campus.

Choice and allowing for diverse perspectives are important values in an academic environment. I believe, however, that making the availability of beef in a foodservice outlet on campus an issue of academic openness and freedom is excessive and unnecessary.

Not selling beef is different than preventing a discussion on the issue. I expect that this action will bring many voices to bear on the issue. Beef producers will be understandably unhappy with this initiative and will make their case. This initiative may actually bring the debate to the fore. Many universities have made choices on products based on a variety of principles. Bottled water is a perfect example. Water is healthy. We should all drink water – most of us more of it. There is rarely an uproar when bottled water is banned from campuses even though some people are clearly inconvenienced. There are clearly preferred foodstuffs that any outlet may choose not to serve.

This initiative doesn’t preclude people from eating beef on campus. After some investigation, it seems all of the residence rooms on and around campus don’t automatically come with a meal plan and every resident has access to a kitchen. I also looked at a map and there are several grocery stores within walking distance of the campus so students will still have access to beef. There are also many restaurants adjacent to the campus, some of which no doubt will continue to serve beef – and may even see sales go up.

This has not been rammed down the campus community’s throat. The Student Union is in support of the entire initiative and is actually calling for further action. The President of the Student Union campaigned on this and won so it's hardly a surprise to the student body. It is clear that some students will miss beef but they have the option to bring meals or to shop off campus.

This is not a decision I’d make myself but it’s a business decision the University is making. If access to on-campus beef is a key factor, there are other Universities to choose from. Not selling beef, though, is not hurting the rights of students or the ability to discuss whether we should be eating beef at all.


Recommended citation format: von Massow, M. “Banning beef at Goldsmiths University of London not a big deal”. Food Focus Guelph (49), Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Guelph, August 19th, 2019.


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