The Vegan Society has said nurseries that do not offer plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk are “indirectly discriminating against” vegan children.

The charity has called on the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to recognise the growing consumer trend away from dairy products and include fortified plant milk in its Nursery Milk Scheme after being contacted by parents who are unhappy with the current lack of provision.

Under the government-funded scheme, children under the age of five are entitled to receive 189ml (a third of a pint) of cow’s milk each day, free of charge, if they are at a registered childcare provider for two or more hours.

The Vegan Society said it had heard from parents whose children are affected either because they choose not to consume dairy for religious, ethical or environmental reasons or because they are allergic to it.

Jeanette Rowley, the Vegan Society’s legal advisor, said:

“Law regulating the provision of milk for young children is in urgent need of reform to recognise current scientific evidence on nutrition and a growing consumer trend away from dairy products.”

“Public authorities are under a general duty under the Equality Act 2010 to avoid discrimination; by limiting the Nursery Milk Scheme only to cow’s milk, the Department of Health are failing in that duty.”

“We are urging the Government to include fortified plant milk in its milk schemes nationwide, to ensure vegan children are catered for with a nutritionally adequate and delicious milk alternative.”

The Vegan Society has given the Department of Health 14 days to respond to its request, after which time it states it “will be considering legal options”.

Last reviewed 30 September 2019