According to new research conducted and released by Vegan Inclusive Education, a large majority of vegan pupils report having been teased for being vegan, whereas 42% report having been bullied. The research may not come as a surprise to vegan parents and young adults, but it exemplifies the need for further education on the issue in order to reduce these numbers.
The study included 250 children and “aimed to capture the day-to-day experiences of vegans in schools”.
It’s not just students picking on other students: 16% reported having been teased by one or more of their teachers and 12% by other school staff. Of those who had been teased or bullied, only 25% said their school quickly resolved the issue. Sadly, the research found that less than 40% of vegan pupils feel “welcome and safe” in their school.
In an attempt to help reduce these staggering stats, Vegan Inclusive Education has created a resource for schools in order to help them with vegan inclusion. Thus far over 1,000 schools in the UK have registered for the pack.
“Educating about difference is a crucial cornerstone of inclusion”, says Ruth Jenkins, programme co-ordinator at Vegan Inclusive Education. “Only once pupils understand a belief can they value it.”
She continues: “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.”
The study also found that 54% of students have experienced no vegan meal options. Furthermore, 48% said they have experienced no vegan dessert options.
“It is essential that schools invest in training and include an explanation in their policy documents that ethical veganism is a protected belief”, says Jenkins” These policies need to be explained to both school staff and pupils so that there is no room for misunderstanding.”
She continues: “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.”