Meat Free Mondays, continued.

A reader comments:

I still don’t understand how someone with a medical condition would require an “exemption” from eating in hall? … Do you mean that there would be a small number of meat dishes available to those with a medical condition—in that case, who decides what medical conditions are valid? Slippery slope.

The valid medical conditions would be those people were imagining in which it was necessary for someone to eat meat every day, as testified to by a doctor. That doesn’t look slippery.

[I]f your goal is lowered CO2 emissions, wouldn’t an active education campaign—on more than just meat-issues—have a greater long-term and overall impact than preventing students from eating meat once per week?

‘Active education campaigns’ have been taking place for years now, and still far too few people care about the impact of their behaviour on the environment. Lowering meat consumption is a substantive step in the right direction. And why take this to be an either-or?

Let’s say you reduce meat consumption by 2 meals/student/week (lunch and dinner), or 90ish meals over the course of a 3-year degree. And let’s say that the average meat meal is 225 g (8 oz), so that’s about 20 kg of meat in total. By your quoted numbers, that would be equivalent to a flight of 2000 km, roughly equivalent to a round trip from Oxford to Munich, Vienna or Prague—hope you’re not planning on going on any trips.

The pain of enduring all of those crappy meals made meaningless by a single trip…Then once that student leaves Oxford, daily meat consumption returns because all the student learned was that the dining hall didn’t serve meat on Mondays.

It wouldn’t be made meaningless by a single trip, unless you’re only taking the trip because you sacrificed the meat. But that would be a little odd. This is like saying there’s no point in leaving the lawn sprinklers on for an hour less a day because next week you’re going to wash the car.

And the idea that Meat Free Mondays would evaporate over night once a new body of students arrived is deeply implausible. The idea is that these things become institutionalised and, yes, students hear why there is no meat in Hall on Mondays, rather than being clueless, asking no questions, assuming there is no reason and revoking the arrangement accordingly.

Where does college get its vegetables from? Hopefully they are not air-shipped, although they most likely are. Better not eat any out-of-season vegetables. Want green in the winter? Too bad for you. M&S flies their cheap green beans in from Africa; I can only imagine college might have a similar source.

If the environmental impact of these practices is as destructive as the production of meat, then of course they should also be subject to review and moderation. But you don’t have to fatten up green beans. And as far as I know they don’t give out methane.

What you want to do is change people’s ideas about consumption of all resources, not force them to consume less without knowing why. Encourage them to pick vegetarian options on days where that dish appeals to them. Highlight the impact of purchasing products with a lot of packaging, or leaving their laptops plugged in while not in use. Show them the cost savings of being energy efficient. Then they will look throughout their lives for ways to be efficient.

If you want to change something at the college level, there are many things that could be done. Convince college to have a less ridiculous recycling programme—did you know that the scouts won’t collect recycling from the kitchens in Margery Fry? Instead, the bulk of that recyclable aluminium and glass is going straight into the rubbish bins. Encourage the installation of modern energy-efficient fixtures and appliances—the rooms in Margery Fry are so poorly insulated that most students leave their heat on full blast during the day because the heating is turned off from 11PM to 7AM. There is so much room for improvement here.

None of this is inconsistent with a reasonable reduction in meat consumption.

So yes, the reason we’re all fucked is that we decided that people should be able to eat meat on Mondays. Global climate change is in part caused by having too many meat-eating mouths to feed—why don’t we have Abstinence Tuesdays while we’re at it? (I included that last bit because I figure this comment won’t pass your moderation, but prove me wrong that you have the courage to address dissenting opinions rather than calling anyone who disagrees with you a moron.)

I approve all comments with points to make. I only ignore those that are made anonymously with the sole intent of insulting.

And I often air dissent on this blog, whenever it comes along. For instance, here, here, herehere and here.

Previous Meat Free Monday posts here, here and here.


4 thoughts on “Meat Free Mondays, continued.

  1. worth noting that transporting organic goods by air doesn’t necessarily mean they’re any less green than alternatives – e.g. growing flowers in Kenya then flying them to the UK uses less energy in total than growing them in the UK.

  2. Also why no fuss about dairy? Dairy cows are just as bad for the environment as meat cows and a lots worse than chicken. The Hall vegetarian food often contained huge amounts of dairy so I’m unconvinced it is more sustainable than some of the chicken-based dishes…

    • Tallulah – Yes. I’m far from in the know on that front. Do any articles spring to mind? But after what I read yesterday about the disparity of impact between the production of chicken and beef, that certainly sounds plausible.

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