The European Commission has registered a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) titled ‘European citizens’ initiative for vegan meal‘, calling for legislation that expressly requires the availability of vegan alternatives in private and public spaces that sell food and drinks in the EU. The European Commission has accepted this initiative as within the rules (95 of the 119 ever presented have been admitted), which means the organizers (represented by the Italian citizen Paola Sgarbazzini) must now start to collect signatures of EU citizens. To proceed, one million signed statements of support from at least seven Member States need to be collected within a year of registering an initiative. If that is achieved, the European Commission must then respond (which does not mean that it will do what the petition asks, but it must give explanations if it does not do it).
The rules state that only initiatives that follow these conditions can be registered: (1) the proposed measure is not manifestly outside the Commission’s competence to submit a proposal for a legal act, (2) it is not clearly abusive, frivolous or vexatious, and (3) it is not manifestly contrary to the European Union values.
By accepting this new initiative, the Commission is accepting that requesting vegan meals is neither frivolous nor contrary to EU values, and creating laws that make them compulsory is within the power of its remit. This is, in itself, an advance for the vegan cause, as without such acceptance there would never be policies at the EU level that can provide significant improvements to the way countries treat vegans. The UK has already accepted ethical veganism as a protected philosophical belief, but although this makes discriminating against vegans unlawful, it does not explicitly force all public and private catering to include vegan options. Unfortunately, this may not necessarily change if this initiative is successful, as the UK left the EU.