Veganism is booming; it’s hard to keep up with all the latest plant-based food entering restaurants and supermarkets across the country. However, despite this, vegans still often face challenges in accessing healthy, nutritious food in places like schools and hospitals.
Veganism falls within the scope of international human rights provisions and vegans in the UK are protected under human rights and equality law. Therefore, vegans already have the right to suitable, plant-based catering in public sector settings, although in practice this is often not happening.
The Vegan Society has been working for many years to improve provision for vegans in difficult situations. Our advocacy team often hear from vegans in challenging situations in schools, hospitals and prisons and we want to ensure they can access useful information about their rights easily and quickly. We also lobby institutions on their behalf to provide vegan options, not just for vegans, but for everyone, every day. We hope to encourage more and better vegan options across the public sector via grassroots campaigning and legislative change.
We are calling for tasty, nutritious, appropriate vegan meals on every public sector catering menu every day. This would mean that there would be a vegan/plant-based option on all public sector school, hospital, prison and council menus, available to everyone without people having to make a special request.
Not only would this protect the rights of the ever-growing number of vegans in the UK but it would also provide a number of other benefits for society.
Plant-based food is inclusive and can be enjoyed by everyone, including vegans, vegetarians, and those looking to reduce their animal product consumption for health or environmental reasons. It is also straightforward to make vegan dishes suitable for people with religious dietary requirements, including people who follow the Islamic, Jewish, Sikh or Hindu faiths.
Plant-based diets are the most environmentally-friendly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, eutrophication and soil erosion. Last year, researchers at Oxford University concluded that eating a vegan diet could be the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact on the Earth. The United Nations has also urged a global move towards a meat and dairy free diet for the benefit of our planet. Individually, you can reduce your food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50% by switching to a vegan diet.
Plant-based food is typically high in fruit and vegetables, meaning less saturated fat and plenty of dietary fibre. The British Dietetic Association and the NHS recognise that totally plant-based food is suitable for every age and life stage. Additionally, research has linked vegan diets with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as lower rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Building familiarity with plant-based food in public sector settings could help address some of the many diet-related public health crises affecting the UK and putting strain on the NHS.