• Oxford Hayek Society

Press Release: Resist the Beef Ban

Updated: May 28

The Committee of the Oxford Hayek Society is delighted that Oxford SU has voted to launch a consultation on the University of Oxford's meat consumption rather than lobby the University to ban beef. The Committee calls on students to oppose any ban on beef products.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | 13 March 2020


Oxford Hayek Society Calls on

Students to Resist the Beef Ban


The Committee of the Oxford Hayek Society is delighted that Oxford SU has voted to launch a consultation on the University of Oxford's meat consumption rather than lobby the University to ban beef. The Committee calls on students to oppose any ban on beef products.


At Oxford SU’s 7th Week Student Council, a motion called for Oxford SU to meet with university authorities to ‘campaign for banning beef products on a university level.’ The proposal was amended to an 80% meat reduction target and has been deferred to consultation.


We welcome this deferral. At the Universities of Edinburgh and East Anglia, similar motions that were narrowly passed at their student unions were quickly and decisively overturned after widespread disapproval from students. We are proud that Oxford SU has opted for a more inclusive and representative process than these other student unions.


However, we fear that an 80% meat reduction target will merely introduce a beef ban through the back door. We ask that the consultation be opened to all students, not just deferred to a committee. Once the consultation is launched, we encourage students to oppose any ban on beef products.


On average, beef production is more land-intensive, water-intensive and carbon-intensive than the output of other meat. Meanwhile, the average Briton consumes above the recommended guideline of red meat.


Nevertheless, no student union has the right to dictate the diet of its members. Students should be empowered to make their own informed choices, especially regarding their health. It is not the place of Oxford SU to make those choices for them.


Nor is a beef ban the most effective intervention possible. Depriving students of a choice at university-owned eateries will move them to visit privately-owned shops and restaurants to buy their beef. Removing choices does not change preferences.


Therefore, rather than sending students to places where the quality of beef is outside the University’s control, Oxford SU should:


  1. lobby the University to source sustainably-produced beef;

  2. lobby the University to invest in sectoral innovation;

  3. lobby the University to introduce schemes to offset the negative environmental impacts of its beef consumption;

  4. encourage an inclusive, evidence-led, campus-wide discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of consuming certain foods on the environment and animal welfare.


Crucially, this would enable students to conserve both their choice and the environment, eliminating the sacrifice of foregoing beef for the sake of climate change.


This is perfectly achievable through sectoral innovation. Already, British beef is 40% as emission-intensive as average global beef production. The National Farmers' Union has developed a strategic plan for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 without any reduction in beef production, primarily through using bioenergy and carbon capture.


Further investment in genetic engineering, lab-grown meats, and a whole host of other technologies in development by the industry would significantly reduce emissions from beef production, enabling beef-lovers to munch on their steaks without worry for the planet.


Furthermore, the original motion ignored the concerns of the groups that it is likely to affect the most. A beef ban will prove problematic for religious minorities for whom meat alternatives are restricted, as well as for students living with eating disorders, dietary requirements and disabilities. Oxford SU must listen carefully to these concerns.


By calling upon Oxford SU to ensure that beef products are replaced ‘with plant-based alternatives instead of different meat options’, the motion brought before 7th Week Student Council betrayed that its real intention was not to ban beef – but to wage war against all meat.


At the dinner table, you don’t insist that your friends must eat the same starter, main and dessert that you do. You don’t insist that the whole table must eat vegan or vegetarian. Why should Oxford SU?


Note to Editors:


For media enquiries, please contact society@oxfordhayek.org.uk.


Founded in 1983, the Oxford Hayek Society is a student society for the advancement of individual, social and economic liberty.


We are Oxford’s oldest student society that advocates for free markets, civil liberties, private property, the rule of law and limited government. We are the home for classical liberals and libertarians studying in Oxford's universities. To that effect, we host speaker events, discussion groups and socials every term.

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