Vegan Children: Go Vegan World Successfully Challenges Failure to Provide Vegan Meals in Schools
For most people living vegan is generally not difficult; in terms of food it’s a matter of shifting our focus rather than restricting, developing new habits and traditions and, to the extent that it is less convenient, recognising that minor inconvenience to us is no justification for participating in exploitation, violence or killing.
Some people, however, have less control over their circumstances: people who don’t have anywhere to prepare food, who rely on others for their daily essentials, or who are dependent on the state or government to provide for them. Children who have realised what consuming animal products means for those animals, and who have therefore decided to be vegan, depend on their parents and on provision by their school. When schools do not provide vegan options, this can make things very difficult for vegan children, day to day.
We hear from vegan children regularly about their negative experiences. One thirteen-year-old attending high school in Scotland, where very few schools have vegan options in their canteen, told us:
“I’ve been vegan for two years. Becoming vegan was an easy decision for me after seeing some videos on the awful abuse cows face in the dairy industry, which led me to do more research on the meat and dairy industry as a whole.
Whilst the decision to go vegan was an easy one, living as a vegan hasn’t been due to the lack of food provisions particularly within my school.
Currently, there are no vegan hot or cold meals provided within my school, meaning I have to ensure I bring a packed lunch each day. I find this a real issue on cold days in particular, when I am not able to purchase a hot meal, even soup to go with my sandwich.
If I am ever running late or my parents have forgotten to replace a vegan item then I’m not even able to consider just going for a school dinner unless I want plain bread or a dry baked potato for lunch.
It is often difficult for me as a teenager having to feel like I am justifying my right to be vegan. This makes me ‘different’ from the other boys and girls in my year and I have had to defend my beliefs against being teased and being called names for trying to cause no harm to other beings.
I am really angry that my dietary requirements are not catered for in school and often feel discriminated against.”
Recognising the difficulties faced by vegan children and the need to improve provision for them, and to make eating plant-based more accessible to all, we are challenging the failure of schools to provide vegan meals, relying on the legal rights of vegans. These challenges have secured provision for vegan children very quickly and serve as an illustration of the potential impact of rights-based challenges. The successful challenges in Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and the Scottish Borders were picked up by local, national and international press, drawing much needed attention to the fact that vegans have these legal rights and that use of them can effect real positive change. Coverage of legal challenges also creates rare opportunities to highlight the moral philosophy that is veganism, countering the prevailing representation of it as nothing more than a diet or lifestyle:
Coverage of the successful challenges by human rights news sources was particularly encouraging, as vegan rights have generally been overlooked in the human rights sphere, and because people who are concerned for human rights because they reject injustice should be encouraged to apply that same concern to animal rights.
We hope that the news coverage our legal challenges secured will give children and parents more confidence in pressing for provision as well as reminding public bodies that they have a duty to provide. Every vegan in the UK and Ireland (and indeed the EU) has these rights and can use them to challenge lack of provision and discrimination. We have set out the main rights on our page to assist people with this.
If you are experiencing a failure to provide or discrimination on account of your veganism in the UK or Ireland, we will do our best to assist if you contact us on Barbara.firstname.lastname@example.org