17th July 2021
We often say that it is easy to be vegan. It might be easy to swap products that involve animal use to a lifestyle that boycotts all animal use. But for a lot of young people, being vegan is not easy. Being different can be a trigger for bullying from classmates. Our education system is itself speciesist. Children and young people are not taught about animal rights, veganism or speciesism. In fact, animal use is embedded in the school curriculum in a manner that reinforces speciesism. From a very young age, most of us have been unjustly taught to view other animals are commodities or resources whose purpose in life is to serve humans. Animal ingredients are used in cooking classes, arts and crafts, and in sciences. Free or low cost animal milk is available in most schools. Live animals are vivisected in the laboratory and children are taken on school trips to farms and zoos. It is a struggle to get vegan options on school canteen menus, although Go Vegan World and others have had success in this area. Every time a child of vegan parents, or a child or young person who chooses to be vegan in their own right, objects to animal use at school, they stand out as being different. If their classmates are children of farmers they may feel threatened by vegans because of the false discourse perpetuated by farming lobby groups and the media that veganism is anti-farming.
We all long for the day when being vegan will not mean being different, because it will be the norm. In the meantime, our right to live according to our fundamental conviction that it is wrong to use and kill non-human animals is protected under human rights law and equality law. This means that education providers have a responsibility to avoid and prevent any discrimination or harassment on account of veganism. All schools should include the vegan protected philosophical conviction in their equality, inclusivity and bullying policies, procedures and training.
Public entities are bound by the Public Sector Equality Duty, which requires them to have due regard for the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equal opportunity and foster good relations, including by taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups.
If you are the parent of a child or young person who is being bullied at school on the grounds of being vegan, please consult our Vegan Rights Pages, including our Letters section which you can use to communicate your child’s rights to their school.
This post was prompted by Ruby’s song about what it feels like to be isolated because you stand up for others. What the song does not say speaks volumes. Ruby is vegan. You can listen here.