The Vegan Society has welcomed new guidance that promotes the benefits of plant milk alongside its dairy counterpart, as part of a free nursery and early years milk scheme in Scotland.
The updated Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme was rolled out last summer across the country’s local authorities to include both plant-based and dairy milk, along with a fruit or vegetable snack. This momentous change followed several years of effective campaigning by The Vegan Society with its Play Fair with Plant Milk campaign, set up in 2019. The move was designed to address the inequality of various health initiatives favouring animal milk while excluding plant milk or lacking alternative options. The limited choices discriminate against vegan pupils who could otherwise benefit from the vitamins and minerals in fortified plant milks.
Following discussions between The Vegan Society and the Scottish Government, and with approval from Food Standards Scotland, funding is now available for day-care providers and childminders to provide unsweetened calcium-enriched soya drinks for children over 12 months who cannot consume cow’s milk due to medical, ethical or religious reasons.
A new inclusive leaflet provides imagery of animals to show children where dairy milk comes from, as well as an open hand filled with nuts or seeds to represent the different sources of plant milk. It also includes a drawing of a plant’s life cycle and of a human skeleton, with pictures of children at different stages of life to demonstrate growth as a result of consuming either drink.
The Vegan Society’s Education Chair Laura Chepner, who has been tirelessly campaigning for vegan inclusivity in different areas of school life, has commended the Scottish Government for its recognition of vegans and dairy alternatives.
She said: “What Scotland has done with this landmark move is to show how easily plant-based options can be inserted into any statutory guidance or public sector menu. The decision to include non-dairy drinks in Scotland's government-funded nursery and early learning milk scheme should be applauded for being both forward-thinking and inclusive.”
Meanwhile, The Department of Health and Social Care is aware of the Scottish scheme and is continuing to consider the society’s request for healthy dairy milk alternatives to be included in government-run milk schemes in England.
As veganism continues to boom in the UK, the demand for plant-based food has skyrocketed, with research from data expert service Ipsos showing that nearly half (48%) of UK adults include a plant-based milk in their diet. As such, The Vegan Society wants to see fortified plant milks recognised as an alternative wherever animal milk is currently supported or promoted.
Parents and guardians requesting a suitable vegan alternative for their children can refer to their rights under the Equality Act 2010 and the statutory duty schools are under to remove disadvantages experienced by pupils with protected characteristics. For information and support contact our Know Your Rights service on 07482 363922 or email knowyourrights[at]vegansociety[dot]com.