In 2016, a petition launched by the Portugal Vegetarian Society (Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa) gathered over 15,000 signatures, in support of making it mandatory for all public institutions and eateries to serve at least one, if not multiple vegan and vegetarian options. Last year, to the delight of many meat-free eaters, this law was finally legalized and implemented by the Portuguese parliament.
Ever since, all schools, canteens, universities, hospitals, prisons and all other public buildings have been legally required to serve plant-based food. Three left-wing parties were a major cause of the law’s approval, as well as the animal-passionate citizens.
A spokesperson for Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa, Nuno Alvim said: “[w]e feel this is a major breakthrough in Portugal because it’s the first time we have any law that specifically mentions vegetarianism. It will promote diversity of eating habits and encourage more people to choose the veggie option as it becomes more widely available.”
Alvim added “[t]his is, of course, predicted to have a significant impact on the population’s health foremost, but also on animals and the environment in the long run. Promoting the rights of the vegan population is as important as campaigning and informing people to adopt veganism, in our view.”
While no other countries have been yet to legally follow suit, the campaigning and petitioning has since increased, with renewed hope of being able to find vegan food anywhere. A petition to the UK Government and Parliament gained 19,000 of the 100,000 needed to be discussed in Parliament – while the government did respond, it wasn’t in favour of the petition’s request. A similar petition is now under consideration by the assembly committee of Wales.
Jimmy Pierson of the UK-based Vegan Society told the Metro, “[i]t’s an area in which we’re actively campaigning. Veganism is a protected belief under equality and human rights laws in the UK. This means that vegans cannot be treated less favourably than non-vegans, and that a reasonable effort must be made by institutions like schools and other public bodies so as to avoid discrimination.”
Current petitions include making it compulsory to offer a vegan option in the UK’s KS1 free school meals and for accurate vegan food labeling to be implemented at Hofstra University. Time will only tell which country is the next to join Portugal in making vegan options mandatory and help pave the way to a kinder future for all.