If Britain’s schoolchildren are to get what their hearts and stomachs desire, and the planet needs – at least one meat free day a week – it will be down to young activists like Shaan Dulay driving change from the inside.
The nine-year-old pupil encouraged his private school, Hydesville Tower in Walsall, to trial a Meat Free Tuesday last Tuesday, with a view to making it a regular event. Now he wants every school in the UK to follow suit. As he says: “Can you imagine the reduction of carbon footprint with just that alone?”
Shaan’s school partners with Chartwells Independent, part of the Compass Group, for its school meals, and prides itself on listening to what children think about the food they eat. Hydesville’s website makes it clear that it “actively encourages feedback from the pupil body”.
Which is precisely what he did. Because not only does Shaan run his own environmental blog, he is also the Wildlife Trust’s first youth ambassador for Birmingham and the Black Country and a member of the Eco-Schools charity’s Eco-Committee. With a pedigree like that, it wasn’t much of a stretch to set up a school Eco-Committee and propose a meat free day. The Student Council then canvassed opinion among the pupils, and was met with a resounding: “Mmmmmm!”
That’s because youngsters today are far better versed than their elders in what is healthy for the body, and more importantly, for the planet – Shaan is following in the footsteps of Lyla Springate and the Planet Savers at The First Primary School in Sale, and Lordship Farm Primary School in Letchworth, Hertfordshire.
After the resounding success of the Meat Free Tuesday trial, Shaan is now contacting Cognita, the educational group of which Hydesville Tower is part, to see if a meat free day can be rolled out across its schools. Considering they run 85 around the world, including in Spain, India, Thailand and Brazil, one boy’s drive to bring MFM to a single school could soon have a truly global impact.
He also hopes to change the national curriculum so children from every type of school and all walks of life can learn more about the environment. “I think it is so important, as young people, to learn about the world around us and how we can help. If we learn this at a young age, as adults we will be more involved,” Shaan said.
“Launching a meat free day at our school is a step forward for us, as a community, in helping towards the fight against climate change,” he added. “Every small change we make leads to big changes.”
The school’s headmaster, Warren Honey, said that after Shaan approached him and the school’s catering manager, Gareth Long, about a meat free day: “We were happy to make the changes and see how the pupils responded. If we reduce the dependency on animal farming for one day a week, the potential impact on the global climate could be significant.”