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Vegetarianism in schools is ‘entirely appropriate’

NZ Vegetarian Society says vegetarianism in schools is ‘entirely appropriate’

The NZ Vegetarian Society has responded to claims that a new climate change resource which encourages students to eat less meat and dairy should be removed from schools.

The resource has been produced by the Ministry of Education, and is called ‘Climate Change: Prepare Today, Live Well Tomorrow’. It has been designed to help children understand how to live with climate change, and it recommends that students who want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions should 'eat less meat and dairy products'.

The suggestion that students eat fewer animal products has upset some meat and dairy lobbyists, who have been quick to criticise it. However, the NZ Vegetarian Society says that it is right that our schools should be educating students about dietary choices.

Mr McKibbin, spokesperson for the NZ Vegetarian Society, says that just as schools teach students about the importance of healthy eating and physical exercise, it is right that they should educate students about the impact our choices have on the environment.

‘Just as children are taught about eating well in Health and the benefits of physical activity in PE, it is entirely appropriate that they learn about the impact our choices can have on the environment. The fact is, animal agriculture - and dairy farming especially - is extremely damaging to the environment. It produces a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and it is polluting our land and rivers. It is right that these issues, and positive actions like vegetarianism, are presented in schools.’

Mr McKibbin says that the claim that meat and dairy consumption is harmful to the environment is based in fact:

‘We know that animal agriculture contributes to our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the government, here in New Zealand animal agriculture accounts for almost 50% of our greenhouse gas emissions. This isn’t a conspiracy - it says this very clearly on the Ministry for Primary Industry’s website. MPI isn’t an anti-farming organisation; in fact, it’s the government department that’s most supportive of our farmers. Even they admit that there’s a serious problem.’

Mr McKibbin says there is a danger in allowing industry bodies to dictate what our students do and do not learn:

‘It would be like if the tobacco industry challenged the advice that, because smoking causes lung cancer, people shouldn’t smoke cigarettes. Whereas, actually, saying to students, ‘if you want to reduce your chances of getting lung cancer, don’t take up smoking’ is a responsible message. It’s a similar thing with animal products. If you don’t want to have as big a negative impact on the environment, eat less meat and dairy. Like the tobacco industry, the animal agriculture industry wants to make money for its stakeholders. We think education should instead be based on facts.’

The NZ Vegetarian Society promotes vegetarianism. Each year, it runs its annual Think Kind Student Competition, which encourages students to use their unique talents to do something to help animals. To learn more about vegetarianism, visit www.vegetarian.org.nz


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