20th Feb 2020

Banning Beef at LSE

Proposed by: Phoebe Woodruff

Seconded by: Sarah Nappi

What's the issue?

Animal agriculture has a massive and indisputable environmental footprint. Animal agriculture produces carbon dioxide along with high levels of methane and nitrous oxide, which are 84x and 264x more powerful greenhouse gases than CO2, respectively. Even without an in-depth understanding of environmental science, it is self-evident that the resources required to raise, feed, and process animals for consumption far exceeds the resources that could be used to feed humans. On average, animal foods make up just 18% of caloric intake, but use 83% of available farmland. Animal agriculture is also responsible for 20-33% of all freshwater consumption. This is because of the huge amount of plant foods and water that a farm animal needs to eat during their lifetime to produce a single calorie. If we switched from eating beef to soya, for instance, we could use 97% less land, for the same amount of protein. Similarly, 1.5 acres of farmland could yield either 375 pounds of beef or 37,000 pounds of plant based food. Beyond the costs of inefficiencies, the very methods involved in animal agriculture are incredibly destructive. Animal agriculture causes soil erosion and biodiversity loss from reckless deforestation, water pollution and ocean dead zones from manure runoff, and air pollution from the fossil fuels used to power factory farms, slaughterhouses, and processing facilities. All of the above only scratches the surface of the environmental harms of animal agriculture, not to mention the suffering inflicted on non-human animals.

Of all animal products, beef production is associated with the greatest environmental degradation. With 2-5 acres of farmland (which could otherwise go towards human consumption) required to raise a single cow, beef is one of the most inefficient uses of land and water as well as a large contributor to methane emissions.

The United Nations, the UK government advisory group, Committee on Climate Change, and countless others all agree that dramatically cutting animal farming is critical to meeting carbon emission targets.


What's the Solution?

Given its commitment to sustainability, as demonstrated by its campaigns to phase out single-use plastics and improve students’ recycling habits, the London School of Economics and Political Science should commit to completely cutting beef out of all affiliated dining halls, cafes, and catering menus. Furthermore, since beef is only the leading contributor to climate change and environmental degradation of all animal products rather than the sole culprit, the LSESU should also set an aim to phase out all animal products from its cafes, dining halls, and catering orders while increasing more environmentally friendly, plant-based options. The exact time frame of this reduction is at the discretion of student leaders, but the undeniable and looming threat of climate change should motivate more expedited action.