A public university in Scotland will banish meat and dairy from campus dining halls beginning in 2025. Students at Stirling University, a public college home to 17,000 students, voted in November to compel the school to go meat-free by 2025. University of Edinburgh students rejected a similar proposal in 2020.
Critics rightly labeled the move by Stirling University, allegedly made for environmental reasons, as "bonkers."
"Obviously this is an attack on freedom of choice imposed by a tiny number of students on the wider student body, but it is also illogical," Mo Metcalf-Fisher, a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance, a Scottish rural advocacy group, told the Scottish Farmer. "Stirling's Students' Union would be much better off sourcing sustainable local meat and dairy produce from Scottish farmers instead. How can an avocado flown in from South America have eco-superiority over a piece of grass fed beef from a local farm?"
The vote comes as new research shows more than one-third of college students in Scotland have experienced food insecurity over the past year. Along with challenges posed by post-Brexit inflation and the rising price students and other consumers are paying for meat, reducing or eliminating that food—or any other food choices many students prefer—is as unjust as it is unwise.
Notably, the Stirling University ban also comes as Scotland's parliament is considering a citizen petition that calls for phasing in a nationwide meat ban. The petition submitted to parliament urges the government to ban meat production in the country altogether by 2040. Critics, true to form, have also pegged that proposal as "bonkers."
"The U.N and W.H.O have begun implementing a global educational and practical initiative towards a global plant-based diet," the petition, submitted to parliament this fall by Roger Green, reads in part. "Here in Scotland, myself and many others support a phased-in ban on meat for 2030-2040, which also reduces the environmental impact of the livestock food system."
Among other things, Green fails to explain how banning local meat production, which would necessitate roughly all of Scotland's meat be shipped to Scotland, would "reduce the environmental impact of the livestock food system."
Though Green's petition is making news, it's unclear if it can succeed. After all, beef is big in Scotland. A report last year said the country's red-meat sector contributed more than £1 billion annually to its economy.
But Scottish beef has been under threat for several years. Edinburgh's public schools joined the Meatless Mondays campaign several years ago. More recently, activists pointed to a survey of Inverness residents, claiming that Scots want to eat less meat. But the survey shows 91 percent of residents eat red meat and 69 percent worry "about the impact of veganism on Scotland's farming industry." That robust percentage of people concerned about veganism's impact on Scottish farming is more than three times greater than the percentage of survey respondents who say they want to eat less meat for animal welfare reasons (32 percent).
Scotland's not alone in Britain in having a vocal minority targeting meat. In England, the recently installed King Charles, occasionally vegan-ish, banned the French delicacy foie gras—reportedly much-beloved by his daughter-in-law Kate—from being served in any royal residence.
In May, Scottish agricultural journalist Claire Taylor pushed back against the tide of anti-meat activism in the country, writing in the Herald that meat consumption is vital both to human health and rural farming communities.
"The case for red meat production in Scotland cannot be overstated, not only does it play an invaluable role in supporting good public health, but high-quality, locally reared meat delivers a plethora of social, economic[,] and environmental benefits, which must be revisited as arguments by those advocating for radical dietary switches grow with increasing momentum," Taylor argued.
Eating meat (or plants) is only vital to those who want to eat it. It's not the government's job to play favorites with our foods by eliminating choices.