By Heather Moore
The theme of this year’s National School Lunch Week (NSLW), October 11 to 15, is “WILD About School Lunch,” and the campaign’s promotional materials feature big cats and other jungle inhabitants. Ironically, these animals’ environments are being destroyed precisely so that the meat, egg and dairy industries can raise farmed animals for food that may end up in school lunches. Schools should seize this opportunity to impress upon students why eating vegan is the best way to spare cows, chickens, pigs and other farmed animals pain and suffering and to prevent habitat destruction and mass wildlife extinction. They should serve vegan meals.
Earlier this year, Chatham House — an international think tank — released a report showing that animal agriculture is the number one threat to 86% of the 28,000 species at risk of extinction.
The report, backed by the United Nations Environment Programme, explains that creating pastureland and growing crops to feed farmed animals eradicates natural ecosystems, causing habitat loss and reducing biodiversity. It concludes that a shift to vegan eating is necessary to conserve land and other resources and create a more sustainable food system.
The world has lost half its natural ecosystems, and wildlife populations have shrunk by 68%, on average, since 1970.
Scientists project that nearly 90% of species will lose at least part of their habitat by 2050 unless we make big changes, such as ending animal agriculture.
Researchers at Florida International University believe that demand for meat will cause more species extinctions worldwide than any other factor, because “livestock production is the single largest driver of habitat loss, and both livestock and feedstock production are increasing in developing tropical countries where the majority of biological diversity resides.”
Experts at the Yale School of the Environment estimate that cattle ranching is “the largest driver of deforestation” in every Amazon country, accounting for about 80% of deforestation. Studies show that by 2050, the only way we’ll be able to feed the entire world population — without sacrificing more forests and worsening the climate crisis — is if everyone goes vegan.
Schools play an important part in teaching kids how they can help animals, feed the world, protect the planet and live healthfully, simply by going vegan.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth-largest school district in the nation, is offering more vegan options this year, as are other schools in Florida, California, Washington and New York. Children at Bergen Elementary School in Brooklyn even opted for an all-vegetarian menu.
Every school in America should serve vegan meals. And, considering that a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that many American schoolchildren have gained weight since the pandemic began, schools should be eager to help students get in shape by providing them with low-fat, cholesterol-free vegan food. Scholars think vegan meals will be the “default” choice in British schools by mid-century.
We already know that young people are wild about wild animals. NSLW would be a great time for schools to encourage students to go wild over healthy vegan lunches that don’t harm the planet or any of its inhabitants — wild or domesticated.
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