Christ Church’s JCR has voted at its most recent meeting to hold a referendum on introducing Meat-Free Mondays. The initiative was supposed to be determined at the JCR’s General Meeting last Sunday. The policy was previously instigated and dropped after copious criticism from the JCR, shortly after its inception.
The proposals under consideration would mean no meat, fish, or other seafood would be available at either the formal or informal dinners on Mondays. However, the meat-free measure would not apply to breakfast or lunch.
Diet cards are available for vegetarians, but JCR President Luke Cave told Cherwell that this is an “all-or-nothing affair – either you are vegetarian and never eat meat, or are not and eat meat every night.”
The motion was originally intended to introduce Meat-Free Mondays with immediate effect. James Heredge, who proposed the original motion, told Cherwell, “I proposed the motion because I feel that it is an effective way to significantly cut meat consumption. In the motion I’ve tried to stray away from the moral question about eating meat and focussed exclusively on the environmental impact of meat production.”
However, an amendment to put the motion to a referendum was proposed by Stuti Sarin, a second- year lawyer and Freshers’ Rep at Christ Church JCR. Sarin told Cherwell, “There were different and conflicting opinions on the concept.” As such, she did not believe it was “fair for the 50 or so people in the room to decide on such an important issue on behalf of the whole JCR.”
Some Christ Church students are concerned vegetarian dishes may not contain enough protein for athletes. “As someone who usually resorts to cooking ramen, I want meals in college to be high in protein and high in calories”, said one visiting student and athlete from the United States. Christ Church students are also concerned that the vegetarian dishes will be unable to accommodate gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
Cave expects that “strong opinions and reasoning for both sides of the argument” will arise during the lead-up to the referendum. On the proposition side, Heredge told Cherwell, “I’m hoping to potentially have some form of campaign…there are a lot of people in college who would readily join such a campaign.”
Many Oxford colleges have already joined the Meat-Free Mondays movement. Wadham and Lincoln are among the colleges already participating in Meat-Free Mondays and Regent’s Park endorses an alternative Meat-Free Wednesdays, after its JCR passed a referendum last autumn. Brasenose, Balliol, and Oriel have all also committed to adopting more meat-free options.
The referendum is expected to take place next week.
Analysis: Are Meat-Free Mondays the way forward for College JCRs? – Harry Gosling
The benefit of reduced meat consumption to both individuals and the environment has been well established by numerous empirical studies in recent years. Surely, then, it is right to encourage individuals to cut down on their consumption of meat?
There are many examples of the government acting to incentivise individuals to change their behaviour and to deter them from engaging in harmful acts. From banning smoking in public spaces to taxing the consumption of alcohol, they regularly interfere with our everyday lives and in doing so undermine elements of our personal liberty. The question is, does this matter?
The Meat-Free Mondays campaign exists for all the right reasons. It’s a way of spreading awareness of the personal health benefi ts of vegetarianism and ensuring that people are well-informed about the impact that meat consumption has on the environment. The global livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than cars, planes, trains and ships combined, yet almost twice as many people believe transport to bemore responsible for greenhouse gas emissions than the meat industry.
The campaign itself appears something to be positive about. Individuals are more than welcome to engage with and support the campaign. But what about imposing Meat-Free Mondays on whole colleges? Are there legitimate objections to college halls not serving meat every Monday? The libertarian brigade can be relied upon to be heard bleating about the importance of Isaiah Berlin’s negative concept of liberty and how it is essential that individuals are able to act without constraint. Students, they argue, have a right to eat what they want, when they want to.
Let us ask, however, what rights Meat-Free Mondays are actually infringing. Students at Wadham, which has adopted Meat-Free Mondays, are still at liberty to eat meat on a Monday by going elsewhere for their food. The libertarian case against the actions of Christ Church JCR is even weaker. There the proposition is for meat-free meals on Monday evenings only.
This is one of those cases where ‘doing right’ is more important than ‘having the right’. Climate change is a serious problem, and one that could have catastrophic consequences for populations across the world. On important issues such as these, governments, local authorities and yes, even college JCRs, have a responsibility to intervene, even when that intervention undermines personal freedom and liberty.
Nevertheless, college JCRs could do things differently. Banning the whole student body from eating meat in Hall on one particular day a week will only provoke hostility from many students and in the Christ Church case, for example, the measure appears unlikely to pass. Colleges should try to incentivise students to eat less meat in other, less antagonistic ways. Subsiding vegetarian food in Hall on certain days could be a start, since nothing motivates students to change their behaviour quite like the possibility of saving a few pennies.
We should be positive about the Meat-Free Mondays but cautious about its wholesale adoption by college Halls. Climate change is a problem, but there are much better methods of changing students’ behaviour.