Barnet Council has been accused of failing to cater for vegans, despite the growing popularity of plant-based diets.
The council ranks second-worst in the country when it comes to recognising its responsibility to cater for vegan diets after falling short on several key measures, according to The Vegan Society.
Veganism involves avoiding the use and consumption of animal products. It has been growing in popularity for health and animal welfare reasons, and because it is considered better for the environment as the production of plant-based foods creates fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
But The Vegan Society says that despite 40% of consumers saying they want plant-based alternatives, public sector menus often fail to consistently include a single vegan option.
Research by the society published in a new report, Catering for Everyone, found veganism was not considered in catering contracts issued by Barnet Council.
It also found the council’s decision-making about food provision failed to take into account ethical veganism’s status as a protected characteristic under UK equality law.
The report revealed the council had failed to take steps to reduce meat and dairy consumption in order to meet climate targets, despite having declared a climate emergency and pledged to slash carbon emissions.
Claire Ogley, head of campaigns, policy and research at The Vegan Society, said: “Our new report reveals which areas are excelling and which are falling behind. It’s fantastic to see some councils – such as Oxford and Edinburgh – leading the way and taking strong steps to include vegans and acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis.
“However, for many local authorities – including Barnet Council – there is still a long way to go, and we hope our report will be a useful tool to help people to hold their local areas to account and push for more sustainable options.
“Ensuring that all public sector menus provide a 100% plant-based option every day is a crucial step towards vegan-inclusion across the UK and to encourage the transition to a more sustainable and healthier food system for everyone.”
Alan Schneiderman, the council’s cabinet member for environment and climate change, said: “Barnet Council is dedicated to achieving its goal of becoming a net zero borough by 2042 and council by 2030.
“As part of this, we are committed to offering plant-based food options in all our events, and there is a plant-based option every day for school meals, with a vegan menu available upon request.
“We are looking at our Barnet food plan and assessing current contracts, putting in place a commitment to buying locally, shortening the supply chain, providing healthy food, and improving openness to providing more plant-based options.
“Our procurement team is also setting targets for healthier and more sustainable food for future contracts, and working with current suppliers to increase nutritional value and the sustainability of food provided by the council.
“This is part of our commitment to providing healthy and sustainable options to allow our residents to help them make informed lifestyle choices.”