On 8th November 2023, the Vegan Society officially launched at the UK House of Lords a new Catering for Everyone report into the provision of vegan options among local councils, which found many either fail to provide them or make only a very limited effort.
The report, which was first published in September but not until now was publicly launched, states, “Local authorities must take a leadership role in addressing the environmental cost associated with animal agriculture. Most local councils in the UK have declared a climate emergency, but few have fully translated the urgency of this crisis into their local food procurement policies. Some councils have made notable strides in this regard, but many could go much further.”
Claire Ogley, the Vegan Society’s head of campaigns, policy and research, said that the core message of the report was “a vegan choice every day without having to ask”. She added that local authorities had an obligation to provide vegan alternatives to animal foods because veganism was a protected belief. Local authorities should be trying to meet environmental targets and as plant-based food has much less negative impact than food with meat, eggs or dairy, that should be the default choice.
Endorsing this point about the environment, Marisa Heath, the Surrey County Council cabinet member for environment, also spoke at the event, saying, “We all have Net Zero targets, but no one talks about food.” Ian Middleton, a Green Party Oxfordshire County Councillor who led moves that have seen the county adopt a policy of making vegan options compulsory at council-catered events, also spoke, saying his initiative had generated a lot of debate, including criticism from local farmers, but the reality was that it only covered six buffet lunches a year. He added, “I hope, though, it is inspiring young people to think about what can help us towards Net Zero — and switching to plant-based foods is the number one priority.”