From a UEA graduate to current students – reverse the beef ban
PUBLISHED: 17:03 15 November 2019
10 years ago, I was a ‘fresher’ at the University of East Anglia (UEA). At the time the University was a hub of free thinking, radical thought and debate.
In 2012, my final year, the discussion on banning things started to take place. The first proposal was to ban smoking outside on campus. As a student who had recently started I was slightly vexed that my right to smoke could be taken away.
A more concerning proposal was to 'no platform' controversial speakers. Debate in any university is central to academic study and enlightenment.
I remember how in my history tutorials we would take joy in tearing each other's ill-informed arguments to shreds.
It therefore felt backwards that we wouldn't get the opportunity to do so against people with opinions we took umbrage with.
Both of these proposed bans were rightly rejected.
It was deemed that people had the right to smoke outside, and people had the right to voice their opinions, however wrong, and others the right to tell them they were wrong.
However, after I left UEA the bans came. The sombrero was the first to be banned, a marketing gimmick for a well-known local restaurant was deemed offensive.
Now UEA's Student Union, which always contained oddballs as all student unions do, have decided to ban beef on campus for climate change reasons.
Ironically UEA has one of the best schools of Environmental Sciences in the world.
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The school is next door to the debating hall where this ridiculous decision was made. However, those in the student body did not care to take the short walk to access the research that would inform them that such a view was not supported by academic research.
Furthermore, East Anglia, the region the University takes its name from, is home to a huge agricultural community.
UEA's decision to ban beef will harm local farmers, who will still be in the area after the student body graduate and move elsewhere. The impact of their decision will be felt by the local farming community long after their 3-year degree.
Climate change is a huge concern; however, it is misguided that Universities, with all their learned minds, decide to ban beef in the first instance.
Instead the current course of actions seems to focus on demonising hardworking farmers as the ones solely responsible for climate change.
Ignoring the valuable contribution farmers make not only to their local communities but to the country.
Ignoring action already taken by farmers to reduce their carbon footprints. Ignoring farmers as a crucial partner in efforts to tackle climate change.
The National Farmers Union actually have an incredible action plan to get the industry to net zero by 2040.
It is foolish, dare I say, uneducated to work against and not with farmers who comply with the highest environmental standards that are already aiming to become net zero.
The Student Union should see sourcing local, grass fed beef as a means to cut carbon emissions. Indeed, the Union should educate themselves about those who make such a significant contribution to the community they are part of and take pleasure and pride in knowing that East Anglia has some of the best livestock farmers and beef the country has to offer.
UEA's Student Union should take lessons from my year and take joy in the nuance of debate not in the thuggery of bans.
Ed Rowlandson is UEA graduate. He is now Political Relations Manager at the Countryside Alliance.