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ATTITUDES TOWARDS VEGETARIANISM: An open letter to the DES
Posted 1 February 2003
Charles Clarke MP
Secretary of State for Education
Department for Education and Skills
Great Smith Street
February 12, 2003
Re: Attitudes towards vegetarianism and provision of vegetarian meals in schools
Dear Secretary of State
I write to you about the need for guidelines to be issued to all those with a responsibility for children at school. These guidelines would relate to parents who are already, or who are considering, raising their children on a vegetarian diet.
For Veggie Month 2002, Animal Aid published a report on vegetarian school meals, which was based on a survey of more than 400 teaching establishments. We revealed that, although some canteens have good veggie menus, 27% sometimes have days when no vegetarian option is provided. Our report resulted in an important clarification of government guidelines. Additionally, we disseminated special catering packs to schools throughout the country - an initiative that continues. But the problems persist and it is vital that schools improve their menus in order to ensure that vegetarian children can eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
Animal Aid has recently produced a report, Building A Vegetarian Future, in which the results of a vegetarian parents' questionnaire are published. Nearly 800 parents were questioned in the survey.
Response in the classroom and the school canteen:
64% of vegetarian parents bring their children up veggie from birth. Of the 18% of those children who subsequently return to eating meat, 13% said they were not catered for adequately by their school; 7% said they felt embarrassed about being veggie and 14% were bullied about their diet.
Of the 81% of vegetarian parents who are bringing their children up as veggies - either from birth or after the parents themselves became vegetarian - 13% say they have faced mild or strong negative pressure from teachers (9% mild; 4% strong). 9% say they have received slight encouragement or an enthusiastic response (6% slight encouragement; 3% enthusiastic).
Of the 14% of vegetarian parents who never intended to bring their children up as veggies, 7% said they wanted their children to fit in with their peers and thought being vegetarian would cause problems.
Of the 5% of vegetarian parents who intended to raise their children as veggies but later changed their minds, 17% felt the children were being deprived of some of the foods they liked and 11% said there wasn't much vegetarian food served at their school.
Animal Aid calls on the Department for Education and Skills to issue guidelines on vegetarian diets to all teachers and all catering staff in schools. These guidelines should clarify that a balanced vegetarian diet is not only 100% healthy for children, it can actually offer health advantages. Animal Aid further calls on the Department for Education and Skills to ensure that all schools, without exception, provide a daily well-balanced, vegetarian meal in the canteen.
We further call upon your Department to advise all those with a responsibility for children at school that no vegetarian children should be ridiculed because of their choice of diet. They should, additionally, be advised that if ridicule and bullying does take place, it is the obligation of the school authorities to remedy the situation. Animal Aid maintains that children and parents have the right for their dietary choices to be respected, just as they do their choice of religion.
I look forward to hearing your response.
Director, Animal Aid