Call for legal right to have vegan meals on public sector menus
An animal-free option should be guaranteed on the menu at every school and hospital, campaigners have claimed.
The Vegan Society is calling on MSPs to create a new law to ensure plant-based meal choices are always on public sector menus in Scotland.
Campaigners claim vegan patients are having to rely on friends and families to bring animal-free meals in to hospitals.
But MSPs have raised concerns about costs and children's nutrition.
Barbara Bolton, of campaign group Go Vegan Scotland and a lawyer specialising in vegan law, said there was still a perception that "vegans are affluent and are eating avocados every day".
She added: "Unfortunately there is very little awareness of the rights of vegans. We have a right to live in a way that avoids using or killing animals."
Growing in popularity
There are now four times as many vegans - people who do not eat meat, poultry, fish or any products derived from animals - in the UK as there were four years ago, but they still only make up 1.16% of the British population.
Mark Banahan, of The Vegan Society - which submitted its call for the new law to Holyrood's public petitions committee along with Go Vegan Scotland - pointed to an Oxford University study which claims eating a vegan diet is the biggest single way that a person can help the environment.
Former athlete and MSP Brian Whittle questioned at what age schoolchildren should have access to vegan school meals, while his Tory colleague Rachael Hamilton asked what the cost would be for public sector bodies which already have to cater to a range of needs, such as gluten-free, kosher and halal.
Committee convenor and Labour MSP Johann Lamont said she would now write to public sector food providers to get a fuller picture of what vegan options are currently provided.
She said: "It feels odd to me that you can go into a big chain restaurant on the High Street and be given very detailed vegan options but then you go into a hospital and be told we don't do that."