Inclusivity and the law

Inclusivity

Any dish that contains animal products is inherently exclusive as there are multiple groups that refrain from consuming them. However, plant-based meals can be prepared in a way that makes them consumable to all groups and so are the most inclusive form of catering.

If a dish is plant-based, it can be eaten by almost anyone and is highly nutritious. It can save you the effort of cooking vegetarian or halal food, because plant-based food can be eaten by both these consumer groups[1]. Most plant-based food is also kosher[2].

In fact, plant-based food is often preferred by omnivores over animal-based options. A Cambridge study of university catering showed, by tracking customers’ payment cards, that omnivores (those whose payment card was used to buy animal-based options) switched to vegetarian or plant-based options when more of those were offered. This shows that omnivores do not always want animal produts[3].

There is a false rumour that plant-based food is nutritionally deficient. The science says otherwise: UK[4] and US[5] dietary government guidelines both confirm that even a completely plant-based diet is nutritionally complete and in no way detrimental to human health. Numerous athletes adopt plant-based diets because it makes them strong like an ox – an animal that feeds entirely on plants. Of course, not because something is plant-based is it automatically healthy; chips (french fries) are entirely plant-based, but they should be consumed in moderation.

The law

In the United Kingdom, halal consumption, kosher consumption and ethical veganism[6] are protected beliefs under the Equality Act 2010 (applicable in England, Wales and Scotland). It is illegal to discriminate against people who practise these beliefs, including in catering. The only exception is if it would be financially unviable. The onus is on caterers to demonstrate that offering them food would be an undue financial burden on them. This is unlikely to be successful in the context of public sector catering. As the Cambridge study[3] demonstrated, introducing plant-based options does not affect sales in university catering. As we argue in ‘The case for caterers‘, it does not affect profitability either.

In Portugal, all public caterers are legally bound to offer purely plant-based options since March 2017[7].

Citations

[1] Halal certification is concerned with slaughter practices. Plant-based food does not include slaughter and is therefore halal. See ‘halal’ definitions of two of the leading certifiers in the UK: https://www.halalfoodauthority.com/definition-of-halal https://halalhmc.org/about/hmc-criteria-for-halal/ 

Vegetarianism usually refers to eating parts of animals. All food that is plant-based is also vegetarian (but not the other way around). For a precise definition, see https://www.vegsoc.org/info-hub/definition/ by the Vegetarian Society of the UK.

[2] Some discrepancy between plant-based and kosher food is that “fancy potatoes”, grain and rice need to be cooked by a Jew for them to be kosher. See Rabbi Yakov Teichman: ‘Keeping Kosher When Vegan – Kosher Spirit’. However, choosing a plant-based dish makes it more probable that it is also kosher. See the statement by Dr Richard H. Schwartz: Veganism and the Jewish Dietary Laws

[3] For a general audience summary, see the website https://www.cam.ac.uk/vegnudge and a blog post by the researchers: Veg ‘nudge’: extra vegetarian option reduces meat consumption without denting food sales. The academic study is: E Garnett, A Balmford, C Sandbrook, M Pilling, T Marteau. Impact of increasing vegetarian availability on meal selection and sales in cafeterias. PNAS 30 Sept 2019. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1907207116 (Free to download) 

[4] “With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12.” (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-vegan-diet/)

[5] “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.“ Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jul;109(7):1266-82. Craig WJ1, Mangels AR; American Dietetic Association. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864)

[6] Vegans eat an entirely plant-based diet. In addition, they do not use animal products. See ‘Definition of veganism’ on the website of The Vegan Society. Ethical vegans do this for their personal conscience; they are concerned about farmed or wild animals, the planet or other reasons.

[1] Halal certification is concerned with slaughter practices. Plant-based food does not include slaughter and is therefore halal. See ‘halal’ definitions of two of the leading certifiers in the UK: https://www.halalfoodauthority.com/definition-of-halal https://halalhmc.org/about/hmc-criteria-for-halal/ 

Vegetarianism usually refers to eating parts of animals. All food that is plant-based is also vegetarian (but not the other way around). For a precise definition, see https://www.vegsoc.org/info-hub/definition/ by the Vegetarian Society of the UK.

[2] Some discrepancy between plant-based and kosher food is that “fancy potatoes”, grain and rice need to be cooked by a Jew for them to be kosher. See Rabbi Yakov Teichman: ‘Keeping Kosher When Vegan – Kosher Spirit’. However, choosing a plant-based dish makes it more probable that it is also kosher. See the statement by Dr Richard H. Schwartz: Veganism and the Jewish Dietary Laws

[3] For a general audience summary, see the website https://www.cam.ac.uk/vegnudge and a blog post by the researchers: Veg ‘nudge’: extra vegetarian option reduces meat consumption without denting food sales. The academic study is: E Garnett, A Balmford, C Sandbrook, M Pilling, T Marteau. Impact of increasing vegetarian availability on meal selection and sales in cafeterias. PNAS 30 Sept 2019. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1907207116 (Free to download) 

[4] “With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.If you do not plan your diet properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12.” (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-vegan-diet/)

[5] “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.“ Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jul;109(7):1266-82. Craig WJ1, Mangels AR; American Dietetic Association. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864)

[6] Vegans eat an entirely plant-based diet. In addition, they do not use animal products. See ‘Definition of veganism’ on the website of The Vegan Society. Ethical vegans do this for their personal conscience; they are concerned about farmed or wild animals, the planet or other reasons.

[7] Lei n.º 11/2017