Edinburgh vegan treaty: MSP warns it must not mean meat is removed from menu in city schools

Edinburgh council leader says choice will remain
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Edinburgh council's decision to endorse a vegan treaty must not lead to the removal of meat from school menus, an MSP has warned.

The Capital became the first city in Scotland and the first European capital to sign up to the Plant-Based Treaty, when the council’s policy and sustainability committee agreed last month to back the document which calls on local governments to reduce food-related emissions and promote vegan food over animal products.

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But Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “School pupils should be given the option of having a meat option for their lunch as it plays a crucial part in a balanced diet and their physical development. This is yet another example of a political agenda being forced into our classrooms at the expense of what really matters – the wellbeing and health of our young people”.

School pupils and care home residents must not have the meat option taken away, says MSP MIles Briggs.  Picture: Getty Images.School pupils and care home residents must not have the meat option taken away, says MSP MIles Briggs.  Picture: Getty Images.
School pupils and care home residents must not have the meat option taken away, says MSP MIles Briggs. Picture: Getty Images.

Council leader Cammy Day said when the decision on the treaty was made that pupils would still have a choice of meal. But the treaty itself lists among its “demands”: “Transition to plant-based meal plans in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and government institutions.”

Mr Briggs said: “We need to make sure people still have choice – but it didn't sound as if that was the policy. I’m not sure the council is 100 per cent sure what they're meaning by this and what that means for choices for pupils.” He acknowledged an increasing number of people were going vegan. But he said: “Especially for children, having the option is key to teaching about a balanced diet.

“At no point has there been any real consultation on this, with pupils or teachers or anyone else. I’ve spoken to food producers and they see this as an agenda being pushed which the Scottish food and drink industry can only lose out on. Yo're pretty much forcing children to adopt a certain food-choice lifestyle through this policy. I'm not saying it's completely crazy, but it must not take away options for children and school staff – and nursing homes as well."

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He said he had also lodged a question in the Scottish Parliament to ask ministers what national guidance or policy had been developed for the introduction of plant bases menus in schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

Cllr Day said the motion agreed by the council on the treaty noted that the treaty was not legally binding and that although plant-based options would be promoted in schools, young people would still have choice in their meals. He said: “This is not about removing choice from school meal or care homes. We accept the country wants to relook at our diets and that may have a different focus in the future, but it’s not about ending the use of meat and we should continue to give choice to people.

“While we’re supportive of the direction of travel, we have not agreed to take meat off the table. If the treaty was endorsed internationally and that’s where we moved to, then we would look at these issues as they came forward to the council, but there’s no intention to say this is an end to using meat in school meals for kids. I want to ensure that young people – and older people – have the right to choose what they eat.”