Stoop’s argument is as follows: the most important thing the university expects of its students and staff is rational arguments and consistency in their work and studies. “In order to be a good university, EUR must minimise suffering to the best of its ability, regardless of who or what is doing the suffering. When animals are in pain, studies say, they feel that pain every bit as keenly as humans do. Therefore, Stoop says, animals’ suffering is no less than humans’ suffering. So if the university seeks to be a consistent and rational community that causes as little harm to others as possible, it must stop causing animals to suffer in any way whatsoever and ban all animal products.”

Opinion is divided

Judging from the reactions to an article published previously in Erasmus Magazine, in which Stoop discussed his views, opinion on the Woudestein campus is divided on the issue. Arie Barendregt, a lecturer and researcher in branding and consumer behaviour, strongly opposes Stoop’s view. Gabi Helfert, Executive Director of RSM’s Master’s degree programmes, has tried for years to incorporate vegan initiatives into campus life, but is in favour of a less radical approach than the one proposed by Stoop.

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Fully vegan campus ‘consistent with the university’s values’

Should the campus of Erasmus University become completely vegan? Opinions differ. To be…

Slippery slope

Barendregt says: “Do I agree with Stoop? NO! In upper case. The reasons Stoop gave for wanting a vegan campus are subjective. The argument operates from the premise that the university must be consistent, and all its actions must be linked to its mission statement. If the university were to decide to be fully vegan from now on because certain board members or employees have criticised the current food industry due to animal suffering and for health reasons and because it’s better for the environment, it would have to be consistent and also ban things like diesel cars and fast-food restaurants from our campus.”

“If the university were to submit to such logic, we’d find ourselves on a slippery slope”, says Barendrecht. “Where would it end? On the basis of what mandate would the university be able to implement this decision? If there were no vote or poll, it would be a unilateral decision. It would be a dictate, which means it would not be conducive to potential critical thinkers.”

The Hague

Barendregt is adamant: “If vegans such as Stoop wish to make their lifestyle mandatory, they must put the issue on the political agenda in The Hague. For instance, they could put a bill on the agenda by collecting signatures. Things like these must not be decided and imposed on people at a university. For one thing, you wouldn’t have much of an impact that way, and for another, you’d give the board a precedent for deciding on matters that are in no way within its governance remit.”

Free choice

Barendregt believes that it should be up to people themselves what they wish to eat. Their choice should not harm others, but, he says, animals are not others. He explains: “Animals don’t call the shots. Humans do. I don’t think there is enough support for a fully vegan university at present.”

At the same time, there is an opening, he says. “If there were enough support, there obviously wouldn’t be many obstacles. At the moment I think the university should be allowed to provide information and try to convince people that vegan food is better, but I think influencing people’s behaviour is a step too far. Manufacturers should simply do a better job of making vegan products better and tastier, so that more people will use them. For instance, the public at large is not yet crazy for vegan smoked sausages.”

Vegan campus illustratie 3 – Migle Alonderyte
Image credit: Migle Alonderyte

‘Logical conclusion’

The Executive Director of RSM’s Master’s programmes, Gabi Helfert, agrees with Stoop’s arguments. “I myself have been a vegan for the last ten years and I agree with Jan Stoop, because an organisation such as EUR should make an ethical decision to prevent animal suffering and take a conscious approach to the environment. It’s the only logical conclusion if EUR wishes to act in an ethical manner. Where Stoop and I disagree is that I would accept the university gradually decreasing the use of meat and dairy until it’s gone from campus, rather than banning meat and dairy from the campus in one fell swoop, as Stoop recommends. In the last ten years, so many good meat substitutes have entered the market that it’s become much easier to be a vegan”, Helfert goes on to say.

“At RSM we’ve been seeking for quite some time to realise a vegan range of products. At the Leadership Summit we host every year, we always make sure there are enough vegan options available and that we have enough plant-based milk. If you want people to eat vegan meals more often, you can steer them in the right direction.”

Politically charged

Helfert is well aware that there is a great deal of opposition. “The subject is politically charged in the Netherlands. There is a lot of opposition to the idea, and the argument people often bring up against it is that everyone should have the right to make their own decisions as to whether or not to eat meat or dairy.”

She thinks that is not a good argument. “When the university introduced paid parking on campus a few years ago, a lot of people opposed that at first. Now we all think it’s normal. And I’ll give you another example: the recent ban on smoking on campus.”


Stoop’s response to Barendregt: “He is right about my position being subjective. People can subjectively decide to minimise unnecessary suffering. But the consequences of their subjective decision are extreme. And my argument is about a vegan campus and unnecessary suffering, not about diesel cars or snack bars.”

“Barendregt did not go into the substance of my argument”, says Stoop, indignant. “Perhaps he’s right about the consequences of my argument being a slippery slope, but that’s not a refutation of my reasoning. Yes, people may not like no longer having any meat on their plate. I get that. All I’m saying is that if the university wishes to minimise unnecessary suffering, banning dairy and meat from our campus is the only logical conclusion.”

Vegan campus illustratie 2 – Mygle Aloderyte
Image credit: Migle Alonderyte

Practical issue

Stoop goes on to say: “As for it being more effective to put the proposal on the political agenda, well, that applies to everything that happens at a university. For instance, if we’re going to follow that tack, we might say that discrimination of gay people is fine, if these people don’t put their unease on the political agenda.”

He concludes: “I somewhat agree with what Helfert says about it being hard from a practical point of view to ban meat and dairy from campus in one fell swoop. But that’s not to say that it couldn’t be our only ethical and logical long-term ambition.”

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