New research from Vegan Inclusive Education shows that 73% of vegan pupils have been teased and 42% have been bullied in school because of their vegan beliefs.
The survey of over 250 pupils, which aimed to capture the day-to-day experiences of vegans in schools, also showed that sometimes school staff are the perpetrators; while 72% have been teased by other pupils, 16% have been teased by teachers and 12% by other school staff.
Of those who had been teased or bullied, only 25% said their school had been swift to resolve the issue. This has led to fewer than 40% of vegan pupils feeling welcome and safe in their school, according to the research.
With the number of vegans in Britain rising, Vegan Inclusion Education believes, “it’s time for this important area of inclusion and safeguarding to be addressed coherently in schools”.
They have created a pack for schools which details the steps they can take to promote vegan inclusion. Over 1,000 schools in the UK have registered for the pack, including St Paul’s Girls’ School and other independent schools.
Ruth Jenkins, programme co-ordinator at Vegan Inclusive Education, said: “Educating about difference is a crucial cornerstone of inclusion. Only once pupils understand a belief can they value it.
“If veganism is not integrated into the curriculum or discussed as a valued belief then it is automatically placed outside the scope of beliefs that children are taught to respect. Then it’s not surprising that teasing and bullying can flourish.”
If veganism is not integrated into the curriculum or discussed as a valued belief then it is automatically placed outside the scope of beliefs that children are taught to respect – Ruth Jenkins, Vegan Inclusive Education
Vegan-Inclusive Education also asked respondents about the food offering at their schools. Fifty-four per cent said they have experienced no vegan meal options, whilst 60% have experienced narrow and repetitive options. Furthermore, 48% said they have experienced no vegan dessert options offered on the menu.
Jenkins continued: “It is essential that schools invest in training and include an explanation in their policy documents that ethical veganism is a protected belief. These policies need to be explained to both school staff and pupils so that there is no room for misunderstanding.
“Teachers and pupils need to be clear that this is not an acceptable area for disrespect – just as schools have had to include those with different ethnicities, different abilities and different sexualities in their expanding circle of inclusion.”
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