Earlier this week, 243 people at the London School of Economics passed a students’ union motion to introduce a ban on beef for all 11,000 of its students, making it the third university in the country to do so. And it was the perfect example of how brazen climate change alarmism causes huge problems for everyone. Feeling that you are doing your bit to help the world solve its most pressing problems has, it seems, become more important than respecting the fundamental freedom to choose.
As it happens though, the only way to tackle climate change is by embracing the latter. Students are the consumers of tomorrow, and they deserve the same consumer choice.
There is something pretentious about a minority trying to impose its views on everyone else through bans, especially when it comes to market issues. In such cases, we should always ask ourselves how it is that a group of people who we have probably never met can know what is right for me?
Such logic penetrates a wide spectrum of lifestyle regulations from smoking tobacco and cannabis to sugar. In the context of climate change, it undermines individual responsibility on a very basic level by implying that we, as individuals, do not care enough about the environment to help reduce CO2 emissions.
In reality, for better or worse, it is hard not to. Thanks to Greta Thunberg, extensive media campaigns and green deals coming from every direction, climate change has become a topic of high concern all across the world, especially in Europe and the US which, unlike China, are not the biggest global polluters. We all agree that we should be aiming to cut carbon emissions. We differ only on how we should do that.
Human nature has a tendency to be impatient. It has become popular to think that if we pass a ban, the issue will disappear overnight. That’s to say, it is assumed that if we ban beef on the campus, every student will soon stop eating meat and become climate-conscious. Such an approach might achieve some success in the short term at the expense of consumer choice, but in the long run it’s neither sustainable nor does it help save the planet.
Embracing innovative solutions, on the other hand, is a far more rewarding way forward. Developing meat substitutes is an example of one of them.
We have seen incredible advancements in the area of agriculture in the past decades, helping to make farming and consumption more sustainable. The potential of genetic engineering is very often dismissed because of unproven food safety claims and risks associated with altering the face of agriculture.
However, there is plenty of scientific evidence debunking the belief that gene-edited foods are less safe than those grown conventionally. Cutting off all beef products now means capitulating to the challenges in front of us.
Educating students about meat substitutes and their propensity to help mitigate climate change is crucial too. Popular unscientific rhetoric along with existing market restrictions (currently, products containing GMO are labelled as such) are intended to direct us away from the most innovative products.
Marketing and promotion are key in dispersing information about products, and both GMO and GMO-free products should be treated equally. Making students aware of the benefits of genetic modification would ensure that as consumers they make science-based food choices.
Banning beef on the campus of a respectable educational institution is a step backwards. The UK can do much better than this. We need to welcome innovation and provide consumers with a choice to move away from conventional food not by banning it, but by encouraging the development of meat substitutes.
Nannying students is easy; encouraging them to become responsible consumers mindful of the importance of their freedom to choose is harder, but key.