Nut Up or Shut Up: Why Halls Should Go Vegetarian

Nut Up or Shut Up: Why Halls Should Go Vegetarian

The way halls work right now, with opt-in veggies but obligate meats, is completely backwards.

I don’t care if you keep eating meat in your day-to-day life. It’s kinda cringe, but ultimately, the emissions from one private jet flight outweigh any of your dietary choices. So I can live with it. That being said, the single best thing we can do for the planet is stop eating meat - or at least, stop eating so much of it. Turn those endless dairy paddocks into forest and kill two birds with one stone. Seems simple, right?

Well, the whole “it’s up to the consumer!” argument is total bullshit, unless the “consumer” is a major corporation. The powers that be do not care about individual consumer demand, and will go out of their way to keep things the way they are. Individual choices change the world very, very slowly.

Organisational change, however, changes things quickly. Universities are meant to be a sort of bastion of progressive education. They are hubs from which research can flow and ideas can germinate away from the scrutiny and scruples of business. At least, that’s the idea. In practice, we know that this isn’t really the case, seeing as the people who run the Uni are predominantly businesspeople, not academics.

Reality has a notable liberal bias, and historically so too do universities. If they are still fountains of liberal thought, and if they still claim to be pushing the future in a better direction, then they have a mandate to put their money where their mouth is. They can start this by serving less meat. That’s it. That’s the whole solution. They’ll save money, we’ll be healthier, and they’ll get to say they’re the greenest campus in the country. Win-win-win.

It might not make a difference if you cut out burgers, but if the entire university dropped meat from the menu, or even just served it once a day, that would have an immediate and noticeable change. It would also set a new norm for the students coming through, one they can take into the future. That’s the whole point of a university, right? To inspire change? Besides, students can still go buy meat outside of the hall, like at Macca’s where they offer next to no veggie options anyway. It’s really not that big of a change.

Let’s just look at halls. Right now you have to opt-in as a vegetarian, so the college can cook the adequate amount of veggie food. If you’re not a “registered vegetarian”, you don’t get the vegetarian dish, which is often the tastiest thing on offer. This leaves no room for people to even consider branching out, and forces meat-based menus on everyone else.

This is totally backwards. Instead of opting in to eat veggies, you should have to opt in to eat meat. This is healthier, greener, and far, far cheaper. And you don’t even have to stop eating meat if you don’t want to! Look at OUSA’s $4 lunches: all vegan, cheap as chips, and hearty as hell. I fundamentally do not understand why the University is serving multiple meat-based dishes every day of the week instead of opting for a more veggie-centric approach. I mean, sure, they’ve got Meatless Mondays, which sound great until you realise they still serve fish on Mondays. So, that’s pointless.

Never before have humans had so much meat to eat, but we really don’t need it every day to survive. Nuts, seeds, and leafy greens have been giving humans protein since the dawn of time, supplemented with meat when and if we were lucky enough to catch it. I reckon what has happened is people lived through two world wars, got really spooked about starvation, and then lived through a period of unprecedented food production. Meat was suddenly available in cans, and it made sense to the people who had just been eating leather trimmings to stuff their face with as much meat as possible while it was on the table, so to speak. They passed this mentality on to their kids, who grew up with meat available 24/7. Those kids passed this norm to their kids, and now those kids run the world. Including this university.

But if those now-grown kids are worried about losing enrolment rates by becoming more of a vegetarian campus, think twice. The younger generations are not carnivores. They’re incredibly climate-conscious. EAOS111 (Earth and Ocean Science) had the largest percentage increase of any Otago University paper last year, up 73%. This new generation obviously cares about sustainability, and a bold move like this would attract them. After all, for almost all of human history, meat has been a luxury. It’s time we remembered that.

The tertiary system, globally, cannot in good faith advertise itself as a place of progressive learning if it continues to hold onto the culinary practices of a bygone era. We’re not smoking cigarettes to stay skinny; we’re not following Vogue’s “egg and wine” diet. But we’re still eating meat like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s time to nut up or shut up. Literally. Bring on the nuts and vege, deal with the backlash, and go to bed knowing you’ve done more for the climate than any university in recent history. 

This article first appeared in Issue 0, 2024.
Posted 4:00pm Monday 19th February 2024 by Fox Meyer.