Making veganism and vegetarianism more accessible in public institutions has been a hot topic in recent months, with multiple campaigns trying to get more plant-based options on the menus of schools and universities.
New research, commissioned by Linda McCartney Foods to mark National Vegetarian Week (13th-15th May), supports an initiative to inspire schools to go more meat-free. Vegan YouTube chefs, BOSH!, have been invited by Linda McCartney Foods to Trinity Primary school in Lewisham, to carry out a special cooking demonstration, as the school eats veggie for a week.
The study, which looked at 1,000 UK-based children between the ages of 8-16, found that students are not getting a fair choice at school meal times.
With 10 per cent of participants saying that they already live a meat-free lifestyle, and a further 44 per cent of school pupils saying they have tried to cut out meat from their diet, schools are under increased pressure to include more plant-based options on the lunch menu.
The children reported a number of reasons for choosing to cut out meat from their diets – 44 per cent reported being kinder to animals, 31 per cent for the environment, 29 per cent because it is healthier, and 19 per cent simply because they prefer meat-free options.
Other factors spurring on vegan and vegetarian children, included following in the footsteps of social media stars (7 per cent), friends (10 per cent), their parents (17 per cent) and some who just wanted to try it out (27 per cent).
Concernedly, there were high numbers of children (23 per cent) who reported that they have had to skip a meal during a school day, because there was not enough meat-free or dairy-free options. Even worse, 77 per cent of youngsters admitted that they had been forced to eat meat at some point, because of the lack of options available to them.
The study also showed that 26 per cent of young people said they could be encouraged to stop eating meat if they knew more about the welfare of animals. A further 23 percent said a variety of school dinner options would help, and the same number said that being taught more about how meat and dairy impacts upon the environment would make them switch their diet.
Co-founders of BOSH!, Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, comment on the results: “Young people really care about the environment and climate change, it is one of the greatest threats to their futures. We’re seeing a continuous change in attitudes towards food all around the world and it’s amazing that in the UK, one in 10 children are now meat-free, with that number growing.”
BOSH! continue: “The research shows a whopping 70 per cent of school children want to see more vegetarian and vegan options at school lunches, which can’t be ignored. We hope by working with Linda McCartney Foods we can educate the decision makers within schools on how delicious vegetarian and vegan food is and the nutritional benefits of going meat-free.”
It is without doubt that Linda McCartney’s research proves that children are interested in veganism and vegetarianism, and that schools have a responsibility to provide more plant-based meals, as well as educate pupils on the issues surrounding meat and dairy consumption.
With the study finding that 36 per cent of kids will be meat-free by 2029, it is of great importance that the government begin to implement legislation that requires schools to do this.