Portugal's Oldest University Bans Beef to Fight Climate Change: 'We Are Experiencing a Climate Emergency'

Portugal's oldest university, the University of Coimbra, announced this week that it would stop serving beef for the first time in its 729-year history in an effort to combat the climate crisis.

The beef production process is a known source of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, and the university's rector, Amílcar Falcão, said the decision marks an important step toward becoming Portugal's first carbon-neutral institution of higher learning by the end of the coming decade.

"We are experiencing a climate emergency, and we have to put brakes on this projected environmental catastrophe," Falcão said in a speech to hundreds of students, according to The Portugal News.

Replacing beef with other sources of nutrients will "be a way of reducing the source of the greatest CO2 production that exists in the production of animal meat," Falcão said.

Goldsmiths, University of London, announced last month that it would be removing beef from its menu. The move spurred students from the University of California system in the United States to create a petition calling for their institution to do the same. As of September 25, the petition had accrued more than 50,000 signatures.

The University of Coimbra's announcement was met with some backlash. Portugal's Milk Producers Association issued a statement saying it was "incomprehensible" for the university to refuse to serve a food "which is believed to have contributed to the development of the brains of our ancestors."

The association also noted that Portugal imports 50 percent of its beef and argued that a better way to fight climate change would be to consume Portuguese meat.

But the beef ban is in line with a special report released on August 8 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC warned that efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions, thereby lessening the effects of climate change, will fall short if humans do not also alter what they consume and how they use their land, according to Nature.

Cutting beef from the menu was not the only anti-emissions measure that the university announced. It also plans to remove plastic products from the "reception kit" it gives to new students and implement a strict policy against food waste, according to The Portugal News.

The university, which has about 23,000 students, currently consumes 20 tons of beef per year, according to The Portugal News.

University of Coimbra
Visitors are seen at the main square in the University of Coimbra on April 26 in Coimbra, Portugal. Horacio Villalobos/Getty
Portugal's Oldest University Bans Beef to Fight Climate Change: 'We Are Experiencing a Climate Emergency' | World