News - January 20, 2016

Blog: The Scream of the Dying Pig

Protests against a meatless Monday highlight the feelings of certain groups of consumers toward regulating boundless meat consumption. It is interesting to see how, when environmental health, or public health provisions are taken, there are always people scared of losing their rights.

I did not really want to dedicate my second last Resource blog to a controversial topic, but I will because I think that it is worth giving my own perspective on the matter. The matter is the protest that happened around Forum on 18 January 2016. Five students withstood the freezing temperature to express their belief that ‘meatless Monday’ is an undemocratic, childish and counter-productive initiative. They were dressed up in costumes surely inspired by the epic Good Charlotte video. Mr Vink (or Wink, as NOS misspelled him), spokesperson of Wageningen University, recommended that the debate happens in friendliness and respect. Therefore, I will keep my contribution polite.

First of all, meatless Monday is all but meatless. You may agree or disagree with eating LESS meat, but even on Monday there are alternatives at hand. Second, libertarian arguments (‘the State/University has no right to touch my individual freedom’) must be extensive and are invalid for single issues. But I’d like to stress a third point, the environmental justice issue. Meatless Monday is an initiative to incentivize the offer and consumption of nutritious alternatives to meat, at least a few times per week. This happens because of the huge environmental costs of producing and eating a lot of low cost meat. There are great environmental and life quality advantages and it is good that Wageningen University, an institute ‘for quality of life’, takes the side of those who would like to see less meat eaten. You may not mind subtracting other people’s freedom to enjoy a healthier planet and a safer life, as long as your freedoms are not touched. This is not how a welfare state and ‘democracy’ works.

The protest made it on a regional and on a national news channel, showing that this kind of themes are of interest to the Dutch audience. It consoled me that the tone of NOS was neutral and it let the ridiculous ‘pasta with pesto’ argument speak for itself. Perhaps you are all too young to remember the cries of smokers against public smoke bans. All of us are too young to remember what happened when the first black students were allowed at college in Alabama. Both were provisions that challenged the mainstream ideology, and disempowered a part of the population. But today we know smoke bans have led to health improvements in the West — and who’s going to argue against granting access to education for all ethnicities?

I’d love to hear back (politely) from whoever begs to differ. Lots of tofu-love!

Camilla is in her final year of the MSc International Development Studies