It’s bigger than beef

14th August 2019

I can't believe this leftist garbage, agenda anymore. Extremists. Food-nutrition terrorists…

Kudos to the university for taking the initiative to be more environmentally conscious on campus!

Application reduction to goldsh*ts

Well done Goldsmiths! Showing that it can be done and leading by example, when will more unis follow suit??

Welcome to 2019: Sophie from Peep Show won an Oscar, Boris is our Prime Minister and some London students can’t have spag bol for lunch.

Let’s break this down for a hot second.

The case of Corner

Goldsmiths University has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2025, and released the list of actions they are taking under the direction of newly installed warden Frances Corner. Corner has been a powerhouse in sustainability for a considerable time - she won London Leader for Sustainability in 2009, was a Green Gown finalist in 2015 and was awarded an OBE for her services to the fashion industry.

As educational institutions become hot topic for sustainability, it seems only natural that Corner would have waited no time in installing her ethics into Goldsmiths. Only last year a zero waste shop opened at the University of Sheffield, Manchester Metropolitan University hold popular monthly book and clothing swaps and Cardiff University banned plastic water fountain cups.

“Declaring a climate emergency cannot be empty words. I truly believe we face a defining moment in global history and Goldsmiths now stands shoulder to shoulder with other organisations willing to call the alarm and take urgent action to cut carbon use.” - Frances Corner

Rise of the vegans

The vegan revolution has gained rapid heat, with the number of vegans in Britain quadrupling between 2014 and 2018, quarter of a million Brits signing up to Veganuary and vegan haggis (yes, you read that correctly) boomed 120% last year. More on those on the Vegan Society website. Whether it be for health or sustainability reasoning, we can’t deny the vegan boom. Even the biggest burger aficionado can’t deny science, as beef is heralded as being the worst offender for greenhouse gases.


Here at Studio Republic we are a collection of vegans, flexitarians, vegetarians and meat eaters. We accept each other's choices without prejudice or judgement, encouraging meat free Mondays but not ruling them as compulsory. While meat and dairy consumption reduction contribute towards the sustainable development reduction, as a team we endeavour to embrace sustainability as a whole. This means controlling and reducing our waste, using sustainable web servers, caring for our team members' welfare and much more.

The biggest thing we herald as a team is trust. We each trust each other immeasurably, and we trust that each team member will make wise choices in regards to sustainability. That is why beef-gate has caused such a disruption: it feels like the choice has been stripped.

The University perspective

I’ve spent a fair amount of time working at Universities, and my last role prior to Studio Republic was as a Communications Manager for a STEM focused London University Students’ Union. We screened sustainability themed documentaries, ran litter pick campaigns and faced a tough battle to reduce the frightening excess of plastic in the campus store. At every hurdle we faced a stern board of decision makers who cast the students as snowflakes, trend-followers, and repeatedly heard ‘we have better things to care about’. It was disheartening to see such critical sustainability elements be ignored: we had no glass recycling on campus, hardly any recycling bins, all lights and radiators were left on in every office and lecture hall, event food waste went straight to the bin (even when still in packaging) - I could go on.

So Goldsmiths banning beef, among other sustainability moves, raised an eyebrow. There was discussions online of it being Leftist, of it being a PR stunt, of it simply being ‘too simple’ a solution and dismissing other elements of sustainability. The National Farmers Union Vice President Stuart Roberts has called out the action as criminalising British beef, defending the process and ethics of local farming. The NFU has reached out to Corner and the Goldsmith leadership team in a bid to further educate them on British livestock production - a respectful and exposing move for NFU to offer transparency.


In an old Whatsapp group, fellow Students’ Union colleagues discussed the move with furious thumbs. Claims that turning the lights off and computers on standby would be more effective, further cries for glass recycling to be compulsory on campuses in the UK. One calling for more posters and visuals around campuses regarding the SDGs and what we can each do in our day to day, another battling the argument of beef and its nutritional value. One old colleague said:

‘I don’t understand. It feels quite radical and controlling. There is so much more each campus needs to do the simple things. This feels like running before you walk. Yes, charge for cups. Great. But banning beef feels like they’ve just skipped from A to Z. I get that beef is bad for the environment, but so are other things which have been ignored. Does she drive to work each day? What about the sports coaches, the suppliers of our food, the over printing, the single use plastic - we’ve got a considerably bigger problem here than cows mate.’

The vegan view

In the office, our vegans rejoiced and the consensus was supportive or neutral. Sustainability Lead Halina states:

We need to stop consuming animals not just for our health and the environment but also for the wellbeing of the animals themselves. I think that more companies, institutions etc. should do the same and as the United Nations has suggested, it's necessary for people to put the planet before their palette and adopt a more plant based diet.

Halina linked me to this article, which discusses a report on creating a sustainable food future.

The meat eater argument

I was curious as to the other opinion. There was the argument that there was more than beef that needed to be addressed, there was the argument that it was fantastic to encourage beef restrictions as the new normal. What about the opinion of someone from a different generation, different political stance and generally wasn’t afraid to give a brutal opinion when offered the opportunity?

So I called my mum.

‘It’s outrageous. I wouldn’t be impressed if my child was going to that University. There’s health benefits to red meat and British farmers are not unethical. I thought students went to University to be educated and create their own informed opinions, not have their choices dictated for them.’

Education, education, education

The hot topic of sustainability and veganism's role within it never falls far from the news these days, with the likes of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg leading high profile campaigns to protect the environment. It feels like this aptly timed move from Corner has sparked the debate on education: there are those who feel we are not informed enough about the health benefits of beef, those who think we are ill informed on the ethics behind beef production, those who champion that we are severely lacking in education regarding the environmental impact of meat. The heated opinions all seem to be regarding education: not beef itself.

When reviewing this article, Halina curiously pointed out an element which I had overlooked. Ironic considering the above for it had been, again, a lack of education on my behalf - of both the contributing factor of the environmental impact of beef farming and the unfavourable statistics regarding beef as a food. The NHS website holds no restriction for associating red meat with higher cholesterol and heart disease to even bowel cancer, and it turns out a quick Google search brings up extensive blogs and articles citing the benefits of giving up red meat. The other factor of deforestation was also new, like many my only prior knowledge on this subject virtually only came from that Iceland Christmas advert last year. You know the one. Halina's recommended articles may send you into an internet blackhole - did you know California's Disneyland sells 4 million hamburgers a year? 4 million. In 2012, The Fiscal Times reported that McDonalds alone sells 75 hamburgers a second - that's 2,365,200,000 a year. Let that sink in for a minute.

We’re a sustainable creative agency, so we may lean slightly more towards on argument than the other - though there are valid points for each perspectives input. This piece isn’t here to be divisive, but simply to spark other lines of thought and get people talking.

What do you think of the Goldsmiths ban?