Thoughts on my old university banning beef, the ‘hottest’ vegan and a tweeting fridge

I just need to shake my head. That’s better. Trump, Brexit and Johnson – that unholy trinity of attention grabbers – are dislodged for the moment.

It’s hard not to be drawn there when sitting on this ledge. But today I swear off that gloomy triptych. Instead my eye is drawn to beef, the ‘hottest’ vegan over 50 and a tweeting fridge.

Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London, is banning beef from the start of the new term. The college hopes this will help it become carbon-neutral by 2025. Taking beef off the campus menu has been suggested by the new warden, Professor Frances Corner – and not, as reported in some tabloid circles, by “snowflake students”.

Farmers are not impressed, arguing the ban is “overly simplistic” as British beef is produced to a high standard and has a greenhouse gas footprint two-and-half times smaller than the global average.

My time at Goldsmiths College was so long ago I’m not sure anyone had even thought of carbon footprints. My own footprint in that institution disappeared long ago.

I don’t remember eating beef on campus in the latter part of the 1970s. For a few weeks I lived off frozen chicken pies, a restrictive diet that eventually gave way to proper cooking of chops, fish, vegetables. Supplies were bought from the local Tesco on a Saturday afternoon, as the store was shut on Sunday.

Stores that shut on a Sunday were as common then as vegans were rare; nowadays everything is always open – and every third person is turning vegan, and popping out on a Sunday for supplies of tofu.

This very morning, my old newspaper reports that Louise Hird, who is 52 and lives in Selby, has been voted the UK’s “hottest vegan over 50” in a competition run by Peta, the animal rights charity.

Louise certainly looks pleasant in her photograph, and good luck to her. It seems an odd contest, but as a non-hot meat-eater aged over 60, it’s probably not my place to comment.

Peta is good at stunts that are either brilliantly effective or bloody annoying, depending on what you put on your plate.

As for beef, I like a good burger occasionally – you know, a posh, over-priced street-food burger for discerning fools, rather than a cheap fast-food one. Slow-cooked brisket is a favourite Sunday meal, although not often cooked as I share the kitchen with a veggie wife and a vegan daughter.

Will I change my diet to accommodate fears about the carbon footprint of beef? It seems unlikely as meat or fish only appear on my plate perhaps twice a week as it is.

And now to that tweeting fridge. At the time of writing, this story tops the most-viewed chart on the Guardian website. A 15-year-old in the US, known only by her Twitter handle of ‘Dorothy’, was barred from using her phone after an argument with her mother.

The teen is a fan of the singer Ariana Grande and was worried the ban would cut her tally of followers (the reasons are arcane unless you are a top-tweeting teen).

Dorothy circumvented the ban by tweeting from her family’s smart fridge after her phone was confiscated.

This shows great resourcefulness; it also illustrates just how much life has changed since I briefly haunted the beef-eating campus of Goldsmiths College in the 1970s.

Back then if someone had said that one day a girl would work out how to send a tweet from the family fridge, you would have scratched your head. As I am right now while contemplating that science and technology could work so hard to such a pointless end.

Yes, I am a fan, but our fridge can stay away from Twitter. That bit of white goods has enough on its hands chilling all those vegetables we buy.

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