Campaigners call for more vegan school meals in petition to council

Environmental campaigners are trying to gather support for more “plant-based meals” in Brighton and Hove schools and council-run venues.

One campaigner, Alison Plaumer, from Extinction Rebellion, has started a petition on Brighton and Hove City Council’s website which has attracted more than 240 signatures so far.

Ms Plaumer called for more plant-based school meals in a deputation to councillors backed by seven supporters at a meeting of the full council meeting last month.

The petition makes the same request, for two plant-based days at state-run schools as soon as possible – and for all council-run events to be plant-based once the pandemic is over.

In the petition, Ms Plaumer quotes Professor Michael Clark, from Oxford University, as saying: “Animal agriculture and fishing industries are leading causes of deforestation, ocean dead zones, water pollution, biodiversity loss and species extinction.

“Not only that, intensive animal farming poses a significant threat for the development of new pandemics and for furthered antibacterial resistance to emerge.”

Ms Plaumer also told the council last month: “Arguably, there is a racist element to serving dairy too much because 65 per cent of the world’s population are lactose intolerant, many from the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) community.

“Loads of parents around here give lots of support to this. What do children want? They want action. They want it now.”

She said that professional organisations such as ProVeg could offer help to councils making the shift.

In her deputation, she told councillors that Enfield had stopped serving meat at council events, Lewisham had voted to provide exclusively plant-based options at its events and Leeds had introduced a meat-free day and another plant-based day a week across 182 schools.

Green councillor Elaine Hills responded to the deputation. Councillor Hills is deputy chair of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee and has been a vegan for 28 years.

She said: “Plant-based food certainly has a much lower carbon footprint than a conventional diet. I agree it is something we should focus on to meet our carbon neutrality goals.

“The Green group has for a long-time campaigned for healthier and more environmentally friendly options being made available to support the health of pupils and the planet.”

Alison Plaumer on The Vote on Latest TV

Councillor Hills said that the council was working with school food supplier Caterlink to increase the number of plant-based dishes on the menu.

She said that schools across Brighton and Hove currently have two meat-free days every three weeks.

A vegan option was available every day for those children who are registered as vegans and a meat-free option was always available in schools.

Councillor Hills said: “Ensuring meals produced are healthy, popular and are consumed by children will have a positive effect on food waste production.

“Part of this process is education. We recently increased the amount spend on environmental education.

“As part of this, we would like to make sure that children in all our schools are learning about the carbon footprint of what they eat to help inform their decision making about the food choices they make.”

Councillor Elaine Hills

The petition on the council website closes on Sunday 13 June.

The deputation to increase the number of plant-based meals in schools and at council-run venues and events is due to go before the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee on Monday 14 June.

To see an interview with Alison Plaumer on The Vote on Latest TV, click here.

  1. Christopher Gutteridge Reply

    Seems like a good compromise. Done wrong any school dinner can be a misery, meat or not. Done right non-animal food can be great and it’s good to get kids to think of it as an option.

  2. Peter Challis Reply

    Here we go again – Green and XR activists wanting to impose their views on residents.

    Last year it was “Active Travel” and being “anti motorist” with support from Sustrans.

    This year it’s “plant based” and omnivores are “racist” with support from Vegans.

    And we get “carbon neutrality” being used as a reason even though the Greens have no detailed plans of what is involved in achieving this and what are the big winners to getting there. What else do these activists demand we do without being consulted or proper quantitative analysis.

    For reference, I’ve switched to a zero-carbon energy supplier (electricity and gas), have Solar PV, and now pay Ecologi £4.70 a month to offset 10 tonnes of CO2E per year and also plant 120 trees every year for future carbon removal, making me net “carbon positive” without needing to become vegan or cycle instead of driving.

    • LenaBobbitt Reply

      Dear oh dear Peter Challis you’re a happy chappy up there on your carbon neutral high horse.
      This is a good initiative. It’s about expanding choice & being more inclusive, it’s not about imposing anything mister. As a parent I’ve seen the meal choices & I certainly wouldn’t have been happy having a school lunch
      Try & be a bit more encouraging of folk getting off their backside or why not just keep quiet.

      • Peter Challis Reply

        So demanding 2 plant-based only days per week at schools, and plant-based only at events, is giving people a “choice”?

        And I was just pointing out that, contrary to Green and XR activists dogma, we can easily become carbon neutral without becoming Vegan.

        On the basis that you don’t approve of anyone questioning the petition, I guess that you are a proscriptive Vegan?

        And I am a very happy skeptic thank you 🙂

        • Robert Smith Reply

          Actually Peter your argument about being carbon neutral falls down on the basis your own “carbon positive” is based on your offsetting of 10 tonnes.

          Offsetting is a great charitable way to invest in zero carbon elsewhere and it is to your merit. However …

          The global average carbon footprint is currently 4 tonnes. We have to get that to 2 tonnes to have a chance of preventing heating above 2 degrees.

          If everybody in developed nations burns 10 tonnes or more of CO2e, by continuing to eat meat, fly and heat our homes with gas, then we will have run away global catastrophe, regardless of offsetting.

          So if you wish to eat meat and you are happy to pay to offset some or all of your footprint good for you.

          But offsetting relies on other people to do the extras that you don’t personally wish to do, which means criticising people for being vegan is absurd.

          • Peter Challis

            Thank you for your comments.

            The UK average was about 8 tonnes CO2e per person in 2017 in the latest figures I’ve seen.

            Of this part is from energy usage, which I now have a zero carbon from Pure Energy which has fully renewable electricity, and offset gas.

            I have Solar PV where I am currently exporting about 40% of the electrical power I generate to the grid so I am effectively offsetting others. According to my energy monitor I’ve avoided about 9 tonnes of CO2 though their use and it’s the equivalent of plating 25 trees already.

            With the 10 tonnes I am offsetting every year by offsetting this means I am overall taking move CO2 out of the planet than I am generating – hence I call myself “carbon positive” and am helping the planet. When the trees being planted for me mature I will be helping even more.

            I am not criticising others for being vegan – it is a personal choice, and there is no requirement to become vegan
            to reduce global levels to 2 tonnes per capita. My net carbon emission is already 0 tonnes or less.

            What is your net carbon footprint?

            If you want to go vegan for whatever ethical reason then please do – just don’t try to play the “climate emergency” card as the reason for doing it. I’m quite content to reduce meat consumption.

            Even the city council is admitting that they can not reduce carbon levels sufficiently and are including offsetting by planting trees. However it will take 10-20 years for them to grow sufficiently to make ant significant reduction.

            Whether I make the carbon savings, or someone else does, is not important – its reducing the net overall CO2 level in the global atmosphere that matters – whether from food production or from burning fossil fuels.

          • Robert Smith

            As I say offsetting is a good investment mechanism and I applaud everything you are doing.

            However, offsetting is similar to a pyramid scheme, in that as the numbers of people who offset rises, the less effect it has in reducing CO2e.

            Imagine, if the entire population of UK and US all offset their CO2e at 10 tonnes per person: approx 400 million x 10 tonnes = 4 Gt

            The rest of the world combined couldn’t possibly offset 4 Gt. If wouldn’t be physically possible.

            So if you wish to offset that is fine but a 10 tonne lifestyle is not sustainable for everybody if we are to meet the Paris targets.

            Therefore you are doing a lot but you can’t hold yourself as an example for everyone to follow, because if everyone offsets we don’t actually reduce CO2e.

            When I last checked (pre-covid), my footprint was approx. 4 tonnes for primary and secondary.

      • Mollybolly Reply

        This is a great move to help reduce carbon emissions. It only requests 2days a week plant based meals, and arguably we would do well to have more plant based days according to the BMJ, UN, Lancet Bank of England and a myriad of others

        Its not about imposing views, its about facing uncomfortable scientifical facts.

        No one wants runaway climate chaos, we are already locked in to 2°

        We are doing everything we can personally ( solar panels , solar powered car , dont fly, deep green energy company , all plant based food etc etc …..)

        But it needs more action by governments, and not the current Greenwash

        Anyway I think its a great move in the right direction

        Good work

      • Chaz. Reply

        Oh dear another Green, the posh end of the Momentum/Labour party, telling someone she does not agree with, to shut up.
        Sums up the B&HCC aptly.

    • Robert Smith Reply

      There are studies showing the majority of children want to eat less meat and dairy and are finding insufficient options at school.

      Sp this isn’t an imposition by the council or XR, rather than a positive petition to help get those children (and their supportive parents) the meals they want and are finding a lack of choice due to the catering companies.

      • Peter Challis Reply

        So demanding 2 plant-based only days per week at schools, and plant-based only at events, is giving people a “choice”?

  3. jjgoldsmith Reply

    A good idea to have all options on the menu each day to give students a choice. I would not support just having one option on any given day though, students should chose not be dictated too.

  4. Bear Road resident Reply

    “Ms Plaumer also told the council last month: “Arguably, there is a racist element to serving dairy too much because 65 per cent of the world’s population are lactose intolerant, many from the BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) community.”
    Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that people should have a choice in what they eat and that a heavily meat / dairy based diet is bad for the planet to suggest that schools meals are being prepared as a racist attack on BAME people is just arrant nonsense and ruins the whole point of the argument…

    • Nathan Adler Reply

      Yes the dairy is racist claim kind of undermines the logical idea that all three choices should be offered everyday – let the students choose. Perhaps we haven’t reached peak woke yet.

  5. Hendra Reply

    I wonder what the food choices are at Roedean?
    Over to you, Cllr Childs…

  6. Billy Short Reply

    This story is another weird one – and I write this as someone who grows his own veg and who tries not to eat meat products.

    If you have kids then you know the concern is over them eating something, or else you worry about them eating too much junk food.
    With these issues in mind, the local schools are already fully engaged with parents in trying to give pupils a healthy diet, whilst also catering for special diets and special needs. It would be outrageous nowadays if a provided meal did not include a veggie option, or deal with other needs such as veganism or nut allergies.

    But this petition is about a minority of interfering people trying to impose a Vegan diet on others, for evangelistic reasons.

    Once again, a step seemingly in the right direction is taken way too far. Just like the dogmatic imposition of cycle lanes where they are not wanted or needed.

    We have a city currently run by zealots. How did this happen?

  7. Rostrum Reply

    Another swivel eyed loony left vegan loud mouth with too much influence..

  8. Hove Guy Reply

    A plant based diet would certainly be a healthy one. However “based” should should be the operative word. Large portions of fruit and vegetables are important, but we all need protein, and that is especially so for growing children. Vegan diets exclude meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products. Whoever arranges the catering must ensure that there is sufficient protein included in school meals. Many vegan diets unfortunately do not do that.

    • Victoria Briggs Reply

      @Hove Guy – you are quite right that it can be the case that some vegan diets do not contain enough protein but if you plan carefully it can be done. There are plenty of vegan athletes that prove that. So it will not be too much of an issue for catering to arrange sufficient protein. The same applies to B12 etc.

  9. Greens Out Reply

    As an adult, and a responsible parent, my children have a say in what food they like to eat and what is good for them.

    They have a healthy, balanced diet that includes meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. which they thoroughly enjoy.

    I/we do not need some loony left wing vegan activist to tell us what to eat thank you.

    And 2 deg C warmer would av=ctually be quite nice.

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