It became too difficult for students and teachers to reconcile eating meat with caring for abandoned animals.
The German International School in Chennai, India, has gone entirely vegan. Students used to dine on chicken, fish, beef, and cheese, but the school ran into an ethical dilemma when it started opening its doors to abandoned and injured animals. Suddenly, eating meat felt much more uncomfortable. As one school advisor, Thomas Pallushek, told the Times of India:
“It became tough to eat mutton with a pet goat on the lawns nearby. We felt it was ethically not right. We wanted to reduce the human impact on the environment and eating less meat is the simplest way.”
The process was gradual. School staff began by reducing the amount of meat and dairy served to kids in the middle of 2016, and then decided to eliminate it completely. Now the menu consists of legumes, beans, quinoa, hemp seeds, seitan, and homemade vegan cheese made from cashews “The menu ranges from cucumber avocado toast, zucchini bread and apple sauce, to ratatouille, flavoured rice with dal curry, pumpkin spice muffins and fruit smoothies.”
To facilitate the transition to veganism, the school showed documentary films, held debates in ethics classes, and organized a banquet that introduced many families to how delicious, nutritious, and satisfying vegan cuisine can be. Some parents have been pleasantly surprised by how willing their kids are to eat vegetables. Says Neha Banerjee, whose 9-year-daughter is non-vegetarian at home:
“At home, I can't get her to eat vegetables. But in school, she is eating a variety of vegetables and also other grains such as ragi and barley, and getting wholesome nutrition.”
India is a good place to start exploring veganism, as much of the population already embraces vegetarianism and eats legumes on a daily basis. What makes this situation unusual, though, is that the transition has occurred in a German school, whose culinary tradition is very meat-centric.
Even in Germany, however, change is happening. The country has the fastest growing market for vegan food products in the world, and its environment minister Barbara Hendricks made international headlines for saying no more meat would be served at official functions.