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Farmers’ ‘outrage’ at Cambridge University’s beef and lamb ban

One told the university to ‘get its house in order and back local grass-fed livestock’

Since 2016, Cambridge University has removed beef and lamb from its menus in 14 outlets and 1,500 annual events. The move has been praised as a big step in the right direction for the university, which claims that its overall carbon emissions across the catering service fell by 10.5% between 2015 and 2018.

Professor Balmford of Conservation Science at Cambridge commented, ‘It is hard to imagine any other interventions that could yield such dramatic benefits in so short a span of time’. Head of Catering Nick White deemed the move ‘absolutely the right thing to do'.

The NFU is not happy about the ban, however, which they criticised for being ‘too simplistic.’ Rather than an outright ban on beef and lamb, which NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said in the UK is ‘among the most efficient and sustainable in the world due to our extensive, grass-based systems’, farmers have called on universities to consider the sourcing of meat instead.

The government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advocated last year that the number of sheep and cattle should be reduced by 20-50% to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, but according to environmentalists these figures were kept optimistically low so as not to offend the NFU farmers’ union. The CCC says the grassland released from beef and lamb farming could be used instead to grow forests and biofuels to absorb rising CO2 emissions.

Cambridge is not alone in ending the sale of beef and lamb products at campus food outlets. Goldsmiths University of London has also announced that it will do the same as part of its goal to become carbon neutral by 2025.

Since Cambridge enacting its ban on beef and lamb at campus food outlets, various of the university’s colleges have hosted vegetarian and vegan formal dinners. Clare College has introduced meat-free Mondays, and Newnham’s Food and Drinks and Green Officers are also planning to introduce a meat-free day of the week in the coming term. Despite unhappiness expressed by farmers, it doesn’t look like the university catering service will be reversing its decision any time soon.