The road to legislation change
In 2018, we launched petitions calling for guaranteed plant-based options on all public sector menus, every day. The petitions have now closed but you can keep up to date with the latest developments in each region here.
Our petition to Westminster closed in March 2019, securing 27,211 signatures. This meant that the government were obliged to respond to our proposal. Disappointingly (but unsurprisingly) they are happy with the status quo and are reluctant to make any changes to the current situation.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) stated: “Public sector canteens are happy to cater for people with special dietary needs including those eating a vegan diet.” The main reason they offered for not accepting the petition is summarised by this quote: “We do not think it appropriate to stipulate particular menus in the standards as these are best dealt with by meeting local customer demand.”
This is an unsatisfactory response as it avoids the fact that many institutions are not currently meeting local vegan demand, resulting in many vegans being left hungry and not being catered for in line with their protected philosophical belief.
There was one slightly encouraging statement in their response, which acknowledged the rise in veganism and the ‘legitimate expectation’ that public sector food should reflect this: “The number of people in the UK who eat a vegan diet has increased significantly over recent years and they have a legitimate expectation the food served in public sector establishments reflects this.”
We sent a reply to Defra on 14 May, outlining why their response to our petition is inadequate and restating the environmental and public health cases for guaranteed plant-based meals in the public sector.
Read our reply here.
Our petition to the Scottish Parliament closed in November 2018, with 8,778 signatories and attracting 491 supportive comments online.
We were then invited to a Public Petitions Committee hearing on 6 December 2018 in the Scottish Parliament, where we outlined our case for new legislation and discussed this with Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) who sit on the committee. The committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government, NHS Health Boards, local authorities and the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body for further information.
The Vegan Society and Go Vegan Scotland had submitted additional written evidence to the committee for consideration and had a follow up hearing on the 5th of September 2019, whereby the petition was unfortunately closed, due to the Scottish Government declaring that it has no plans to make any amendments to legislation in regards to our campaign asks. We were however, suggested to campaign for this through the 'Good Food Nation Bill', which we are currently working towards.
Our petition to the National Assembly for Wales closed at the end of February 2018, amassing 1,109 signatures.
The Assembly’s Petitions Committee considered our petition and further evidence, during a hearing on 5 March 2019 and decided to write to the Minister for Health & Social Services and the Minister for Education to ask what assessment or research has been carried out on the sufficiency of vegan provision in Welsh hospitals and schools.
A joint response from the Minister for Education and Minister for Health misunderstood our petition and outlined the provision they already offer vegans, by special request. We highlighted this misunderstanding to the committee who considered our petition for the second time on 7 May 2019.
This time they acknowledged that plant-based diets are more beneficial for the environment. The Welsh government recently declared a climate emergency and the committee recognised that this ask should fall under this declaration and set good practice. The Committee agreed to write to the Environment Minister and respond to the Education and Health Ministers, asking them if all menus contain vegan food.
The response led to a third hearing by the Committee, on the 15th of October 2019, whereby the Committee agreed to write back to the Minister for Finance - to ask how the current National Procurement Service food and drink framework agreements enable and promote the provision of daily vegan options on public sector menus - as well agreeing to write to the Minister for Education - to ask whether the Government has any plans to review the 'Healthy Eating in Maintained Schools' statutory guidance, in regards to the requirements to provide menu choices appropriate for those following a vegan diet.