A STUDENT vote to ban the sale of beef on Edinburgh University campus has sparked criticism that fair and informed discussion has been denied to the student body.

A debate was held last week, where around 150 students heard proposals suggesting that removing beef from students’ diets could ‘perhaps be the easiest and most effective step’ they could take against climate change.

Around 20 SRUC agriculture students were refused the opportunity to oppose the motion or vote during the debate, despite many attending lectures on the campus in question. They were told they couldn’t participate as they were ‘not matriculated directly with the university.’

The motion went on to pass with 51% in favour, which saw it move to the next stage of an open vote to the wider student body.

There is concern that the material currently available on the student website fails to present facts and information against the motion, whilst 'sensationalist' and inaccurate figures have been allowed to go unchallenged in the proposal.

One SRUC student, John McCulloch, who wasn’t allowed to contribute to the debate told The SF: “The ‘for’ argument was another case of misinformation and the motion was clearly trying to jump on the bandwagon of other universities such as Cambridge and Goldsmiths, to try and make a fashion statement,” he said. “The proposer accused beef cattle emissions of being a bigger ‘carbon culprit’ than transport, which is simply untrue. These wildly false statements could influence a crucial vote without all the correct facts being delivered to allow students to make an informed decision.”

Second year Mechanical Engineering student Elena Silverstein who proposed the motion, launched a petition four months ago to ban beef on campus, which has so far gathered around 500 signatures. She cited figures alleging animal agriculture accounts for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to 13% for all transport.

Ms Silverstein said: "Ideally we should phase out all animal products, but asking the university to stop providing beef to staff and students is an immediately achievable objective which will make a very real difference to the university’s GHG footprint overnight.”

Dean of SRUC’s Central Faculty, David Hopkins, said: “SRUC enjoys a long and proud history with the University of Edinburgh, but our agriculture students are rightly showing their concern at the apparent imbalance of this debate. This is why we will work with Edinburgh University Students’ Association and our own students’ association – SRUCSA – to ensure balance in this important conversation. On February 28, in Edinburgh, SRUC is hosting a public debate on food policy, which will explore the sustainability of different food production systems.”

EUSA president Andrew Wilson explained: “Online ballots are open for all matriculated students to have their say. They must receive over 50% votes in favour to pass. If the motion passes, the next steps will be for the organisation to conduct a feasibility study exploring the impact of ending the sale of beef in Students’ Association run cafes, restaurants, and shops. The Sabbatical Officers may at that point choose to call an online referendum to allow the student body to make a final decision,” he concluded.

Livestock industry organisations are now in the process of compiling a joint letter to Edinburgh University outlining their concerns.