How to Call on our Schools and Other Institutions to Provide Food Suitable for You or Your Children

(Photo: “When a Scottish Primary School announces last minute that the children will be having a special Xmas meal, the vegan parent asks what their vegan child will be given and the attached is the response, i.e. “Nothing.” This was the evening before the meal.)

While we're pushing the Scottish Parliament to pass legislation guaranteeing a vegan option in every state institution every day, (see: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/public-petitions-committee-december-6-2018) in the meantime we know many vegans in Scotland are being denied vegan food in schools, hospitals and elsewhere. We can all be pushing for provision, in reliance upon our legal rights, informing the state of its obligations and educating people about veganism really is.

At the bottom of this blog I’ve set out some text that can be used in letters or emails to schools and hospitals, explaining why provision must be made. (Note that the same text can be used in England and Wales as the law is the same). If you can, please push for better provision. It is not good enough that Scottish children who wish to avoid all animal products for moral reasons are essentially being forced to consume dairy and eggs in school. If a child wishes to live without animals being used or killed for them, they ought to be supported in that.

**The text is general and each case depends on its own facts, which will need to be added to the letter or email explaining how the school or hospital is failing.

Summary of our Legal Protections

Vegans have legal protection. Our philosophy that it is wrong to use and kill animals, because they are alive in the same way we are, has been found to pass the test for a protected belief or conviction under human rights law, and accepted as being a protected philosophical belief under equality law. See: https://www.goveganscotland.com/living-vegan for more detail, and the free PDF book linked there on Vegan Rights is the UK.

What this means is that vegans have:

(1) a right to live in accordance with their protected conviction, avoiding any participation in the exploitation and killing of animals in so far as is possible and practicable.

The state/government has an obligation to support us in this. They must provide for vegans where they are providing for others, unless they can show that to do so would so adversely affect their overall objective that they shouldn’t have to provide, for example if they could show that providing vegan food would cause such disruption that it would affect the quality of meals generally. There should be very few situations where the government will be able to show that providing for vegans would have such a negative impact, even in very small rural schools or hospitals.

(2) the rights not to be discriminated against on account of our veganism, either directly (where they discriminate against us because we are vegan), or indirectly (where a blanket policy has a negative impact on vegans because of our veganism, for example where the food provided all contains animal products and therefore vegans are not able to eat).

Writing to Schools

It is always better to put things in writing if possible, and to call for a written reply so that you have a record of the position that has been adopted and can pass the correspondence on to those working on these issues if the situation is not resolved.

[Sections in grey are for the person writing the letter or email to consider and complete. All grey should be deleted before sending].

Dear [Head]

I am writing to ask that you ensure that my child is provided with food that is suitable for vegans.

[Detail of the situation – does the school canteen have no vegan options? Is your child entitled to free school meals but is not able to take them up because there is no suitable food? What has been the consequence for them / you as a result of the lack of provision?]

Veganism is a 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. [They/we] live [their/our life/lives] according to this moral philosophy. This means that [they/we] do not consume anything that has been taken from an animal. [Use “They” if the child is vegan but you are not, and “we” if you are both vegan].

Our right to live according to the fundamental conviction that it is wrong to use and kill non-human animals is protected under human rights law and equality law. This means that state schools must not interfere with our right to freedom of conscience, including by failing to provide for us, and has a responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 to avoid discrimination on the grounds of veganism, direct and indirect. By failing to provide vegan food [name of school] is in breach of these rights.

Moreover, as a public entity [name of school] is bound by the Public Sector Equality Duty, which requires them to have due regard for the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equal opportunity and foster good relations, including by taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups. It would be in line with this duty to look at developing good, tasty, nutritious plant-based meals on all your standard menus.

I appreciate that schools work with a tight budget and that they must cater to all. However, it is possible to provide good vegan food within the school budget, and many schools already provide very good vegan options. Moreover, food that is suitable for vegans is inclusive as it can be enjoyed by everyone. If you included good vegan options on your standard daily menus you would find that non-vegans would also select these dishes.

There are other benefits to increasing the amount of plant-based options on your menus. Plant-based options have a far lesser negative impact on the environment and on climate change, and plant-based foods can be highly nutritious. All of the leading dietetic associations, including the British Dietetic Association, recognise that totally plant-based diets are suitable for every age and life stage.

The Vegan Society can help your catering team to add good vegan options to your menus. They have an in-house dietitian who can help with balanced meals and answer any questions you may have. You can contact Heather Russell on nutrition@vegansociety.com. They also have resources for caterers here: https://www.vegansociety.com/cateringforeveryone. I hope you will acknowledge that my child should be provided with vegan options and that you will agree that vegan options ought to be offered to everyone every day.

I look forward to receiving a written response from you. Yours sincerely

[your name]

Ideally you would write to your school and send a copy of your letter to the Local Authority you are in, as they have responsibility for education. You can email or write to the general address and mark it: “For the Education department”. A covering letter asking for their response to what you have raised in your letter to the school would be ideal, that way you are calling for a response from the LA and the school.

Many schools use catering providers and so you may wish to write to them at the same time as you write to the school. It is not good enough for the school to say they cannot provide because the food provider will not provide, our schools and local authorities should be requiring vegan provision when they place a contract with a food provider. The food provider is also covered by the equality protections and so also has a duty to provide.

Writing to Hospitals

Dear [name of Hospital] Catering Manager

I am writing to advise you that during my recent stay at [name of hospital] I was not provided with food that is suitable for vegans, despite having requested it.

[More detail of the position you were put in – were you told they had no suitable food or did they have a vegan menu but none of it was available etc? / what you had to do as a result of the lack of provision]

Veganism is a 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. I live my life according to this moral philosophy. This means that I do not consume anything that has been taken from an animal.

My right to live according to my fundamental conviction that it is wrong to use and kill non-human animals is protected under human rights law and equality law. This means that State hospitals must not interfere with my right to freedom of conscience and have a responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 to avoid any discrimination on the grounds of veganism. By failing to provide vegan food [name of hospital] is in breach of these rights.

Moreover, as a public entity [name of entity] is bound by the Public Sector Equality Duty, which requires them to have due regard for the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equal opportunity and foster good relations, including by taking steps to meet the needs of people from protected groups. It would be in line with this duty to look at adding good, tasty, nutritious plant-based meals on all your standard menus.

I appreciate that the NHS works with a tight budget, and that it must cater to all. However, it is possible to provide good vegan food within the NHS budget, and many NHS hospitals already provide very good vegan options. Moreover, food that is suitable for vegans is inclusive as it can be enjoyed by everyone. If you included good vegan options on your standard daily menus you would find that non-vegans would also select these dishes.

There are other benefits to increasing the amount of plant-based options on your menus. Plant-based options have a far lesser negative impact on the environment and on climate change, and plant-based foods can be highly nutritious. All of the leading dietetic associations, including the British Dietetic Association, recognise that totally plant-based diets are suitable for every age and life stage.

The Vegan Society can help your catering team to add good vegan options to your menus. They have an in-house dietitian who can help with balanced meals and answer any questions you may have. You can contact Heather Russell on nutrition@vegansociety.com. They also have resources for caterers here: https://www.vegansociety.com/cateringforeveryone. I hope you will acknowledge that I should have been provided with vegan options during my stay and that you will agree that vegan options ought to be offered to everyone every day.

I look forward to receiving a written response from you. Yours sincerely

[your name]

Further Support

Please keep us informed via goveganscotland@gmail.com with the steps you take and the responses. We will never use anyone’s name unless given specific permission to do so.

We would like to help people directly where they have tried to obtain vegan provision but the school, hospital or food provider is refusing. As our time is so limited we can only say that we will do whatever we can if you contact us about your situation. If you do not hear back from us please know that it is not because we don’t want to assist you. There is a real limit to what we are able to do to help on an individual basis. We are very stretched in terms of our voluntary work. Sometimes it is not possible for us to reply to emails but we will still be able to make use of the information you send us.

We've tried to keep this relatively short so it only covers food situations. There are a number of additional draft letters in the book Vegan Rights in the UK, available free as a PDF: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/d95b36_1801c5e4e102434fa9275bef07f1134d.pdf

Best foot forward!

​© 2016 Go Vegan Scotland.