Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
The public is responding as at least nine councils so far in Britain have opted to veganise school dinners, with calls for more to follow suit.
Exeter City Council is one such example, having recently set itself a target to offer fully vegan catering by the end of May.
Meanwhile, Lewisham council is offering a meat-free day each week, and Norwich City Council and Edinburgh City Council are backing the Plant-Based Treaty, which promotes plant-based options front and centre.
The Plant-Based Treaty aims to use food systems to tackle climate change – in particular pledging to “build no new animal farms and [stop] farms expanding,” according to The Times.
“Other demands in the treaty include the introduction of a meat and fish tax, and enforcing plant-based meals plans in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and government institutions,” the publication explains.
Should all school dinners be vegan?
Farmers are protesting councils that back plans which promote plant-based meals and meat taxes on school menus.
Some local authorities already offer meat-free days.
But should all school dinners go vegan? pic.twitter.com/b89OEl6rwB
— Jeremy Vine On 5 (@JeremyVineOn5) May 1, 2023
Whilst many are praising the pledge for the environmental good it’ll do, and the way it broadens children’s diets to include more plant-based options, there are others who believe such moves are too radical.
When asked by The Jeremy Vine Show on Twitter whether they backed school menus going completely vegan, one person wrote: “I’m a veggie, close to vegan, but I don’t think forcing a radical change of diet on children is the way to go. A vegan option, yes; and meat-free days.”
Whilst another penned: “Absolutely NOT !!! A variety should be available if a kid wants meat fine if a kid wants vegetarian fine if a kid wants pescatarian fine or even vegan that’s fine too. But choice is the most important thing.”
“No. I’m a vegetarian, but I haven’t forced that on my son,” said a third. “He eats some vegetarian food for the sake of not cooking multiple meals, but if we for a meal he’s all about the steak. He’s his own person and can make his own lifestyle choices.”
Whilst a fourth agreed: “Hell no! Have vegan choices but let’s stop this absolute ridiculous over interference in our lives.”
It’s worth noting very few councils are suggesting going fully vegan, although several are making it a priority to promote veganism as a positive alternative to eating meat every day.
These members of the public aren’t the only ones to express concerns, with Tory MP Sir Robert Goodwill – also chairman of the environment, food and rural affairs select committee – branding the councils’ decisions a “slap in the face for British farmers”.
“There’s nothing wrong with vegetarian food but we need a balanced diet which does include meat and dairy,” he told The Times.
“Meat is high in iron; milk, dairy products are high in vitamins. And we don’t want children, some of them from poorer backgrounds who don’t get a decent meal at home, not getting a decent meal at school either.”
A rep for the Countryside Alliance added to Mail Online: “Rural communities and livestock farmers are increasingly on edge due to attempts by animal rightists to restrict and even eradicate their way of life.
“We are urging the rural electorate to scrutinise local election candidates and to reserve support for those who will stand up for rural Britain.”
For all the critics, there were many in favour, though.
“Schools should only serve plant-based meals, catering for all allergies and dietary requirements and it would probably get more people going vegan since they’d see the meals their kids were eating and could be inspired to try it themselves,” said one person on Twitter.
Whilst another wrote: “Providing children with nutritionally-balanced, plant-based food is key to tackling the climate crisis here in the UK. With animal agriculture responsible for 20 percent of GHG emissions, reducing the amount of animal products we eat is a great way of cutting down food emissions.”
Cammy Day, the leader of Edinburgh city council, added: “By endorsing the Plant-Based Treaty the council is expressing support for a treaty to be negotiated at a global level as a companion to the Paris Agreement on climate. The Plant-Based Treaty is not legally binding.”
She explained that in Edinburgh, kids would still have a choice with regard to meat and vegan options in school.
It’s clear that just how vegan school meals should go is still up for debate, but we’re of the mind that any small shift that helps the planet is a good thing in the long run.
We could all do with the odd plant based meal once in a while, right? And nobody says they have to be boring! (Check out our sister brand Twisted Green if you don’t believe us).