The BIG Veganism in Education Conference
Saturday 1 October 2022
9am – 4.30pm
This year, The Vegan Society’s Education Network and the International Rights Network joined forces to host The BIG Veganism in Education Conference. During this conference the following topics were discussed:
- What are the existing challenges to successful vegan-inclusive education?
- What are the experiences of vegan educators, pupils, and their parents/guardians?
- What is the value of existing rights, equality, and inclusion principles for vegan-inclusive education?
What is veganism?
Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment.1
What are the issues?
The vegan philosophy is not routinely taught in schools and many educational resources and activities overlook the exploitation of non-human animals and perpetuate prejudice against them. Prejudice against other animals is (perhaps inadvertently) embedded in the majority of teaching and learning practice and we know from experience that many vegan parents and pupils feel frustrated about how their needs are overlooked. This is evidenced by their struggle to obtain vegan food, a free healthy drink on par with the free provision of cow’s milk, and the lack of vegan-friendly resources, activities, and excursions. For example, in class, vegan pupils are often expected to uncritically discuss drinking cow’s milk, handle meat and dairy products, use materials derived from non-human animals in textile and art, dissect dead non-human animals, participate in keeping chicks, butterflies, and other non-human animals in captivity and are given uncritical reading resources that overlook and misrepresent the suffering of farmed non-human animals.
While individual vegans are sometimes successful in their attempts to obtain accommodation of needs, we argue that prejudice towards other animals and its apparent normalisation is at the root of the marginalisation of the needs of vegan pupils. Our conference this year will, therefore, bring this into focus and advocate for the development of policies and practices that embed respect and compassion for non-human animals which contributes to vegan-inclusive education and helps support the needs of vegan learners.
How does our conference support and help facilitate necessary change?
Understanding vegan-inclusive education requires educators to understand more about veganism and the needs of vegans. They also need access to training, teaching resources, and ongoing support. To this end, Laura Chepner, members of The Vegan Society’s Education Network, and our valued speakers will explain the relationship between prejudice against other animals and hostility towards vegans, discuss evidence of exclusion and the impact on vegan pupils and parents, the principles of vegan-inclusive education and promote various education initiatives including our CPD accredited teacher training programme.
Successful inclusive education requires school transformation and systems change, and one key element is understanding existing structural, educational, and cultural challenges.2 Our conference will discuss the role of law in dealing with these issues, and lawyers from our International Rights Network will explain:
- The International and European human rights provisions that mandate respect for the right of parents to education and teaching that aligns with their own religious, moral, and philosophical convictions.
- That in the UK, veganism attracts protection under human rights law, and ethical veganism is a protected characteristic for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.
- The Public Sector Equality Duty (Britain) requires schools to eliminate discrimination, harassment, and victimisation; advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not, and foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
- How they have brought about successful policy changes through the legal cases they have won in court.
The conference was in partnership for Learning Charity: Training Conference Centre and held at:South Road
Please visit our Big Veganism in Education Conference programme webpage to see a full schedule of the day.
Please visit our speakers page for a full list of who delivered talks at the conference this year.
- Laura Chepner: education[at]vegansociety[dot]com
- Dr Jeanette Rowley: Jeanette.Rowley[at]vegansociety[dot]com
- The Vegan Society. ‘Definition of Veganism’.
- Dr Matthew J. Schuelka (2018). ‘Implementing inclusive education’.