School caterers have been warned to adapt their lunch menus following an employment tribunal ruling that branded ethical veganism a “philosophical belief”.
In the landmark case brought by vegan Jordi Casamitjana, who claims the League Against Cruel Sports unfairly sacked him, the judge ruled that ethical veganism is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
“[This] will have potentially significant effects on employment and the workplace, education, transport and the provision of goods and services,” said Peter Daly, the employment lawyer from Slater and Gordon representing Casamitjana.
Indeed, school caterers are already being warned about the possible ramifications of the ruling. "I think this does actually change things for schools," said Philip Mansbridge, executive director of food awareness organisation ProVeg UK in an interview with TES.
He added: "Right now people don’t have to provide a vegan meal for a vegan child in a school, because they can say: ‘Well, actually it’s their choice.' You wouldn’t be able to do that if you have a religious student who only ate Kosher food. Everybody would be like: ‘You can’t say that because it is not their choice – it is their whole fundamental world they live in.' This has now put ethical veganism into that bracket.”
Mansbridge said schools and school caterers needed to “look at this… and adapt accordingly”.
There are thought to be few cost implications for offering vegan meals. The food standards for schools in England suggest that all children should be encouraged to have a meat-free day each week.
Mansbridge claimed “very few” schools currently provide vegan meals as part of their menus.