12/10/01 Vegetarian Meals
Statement to coincide with International Human Rights Day
WE SPEAK UP FOR OUR RIGHT TO A MEAL
Although the organization Animal Friends primarily deals with animal rights issues, our promotion for better ecology, health and respect for life is useful for all mankind. We support the fight for human rights and support all improvements that help create a better world, wherein people's attitude towards animals will improve as well. Because of the many unsolved problems in Croatia and all over the world, we would like to contribute and help find solutions - especially in Croatia, where certain topics have not even been included in the political agenda yet.
When talking about human rights, we often think about protecting the rights of minorities. Vegetarians are a minority as well. About 5% of the Croatian citizens are vegetarian and this percentage is growing. On several occasions, like for instance "Vegetarian Day" on October 1, Animal Friends drew attention to the discrimination of people who have chosen for a vegan lifestyle. People decide to become vegan for ethical, ecological and health reasons and choose not to abuse animals and therefore not to consume meat, fish, milk and eggs, or wear leather, fur and wool. A vegan or vegetarian lifestyle goes considerably beyond the term "diet".
Hundreds of millions of people all over the world and approximately 200,000 people in Croatia have chosen a vegetarian lifestyle. Yet, there are no public institutions in Croatia that provide meals for vegetarians or vegans and we often feel we are treated unjustly and are discriminated by institutions that are being paid with our tax money.
Thousands of vegetarians have been hoping for years that promises made by the Ministry of Science will come true and student restaurants will finally serve good quality vegetarian and vegan meals. Although vegan meals, that do not contain meat, milk and eggs, have not yet been introduced in student restaurants, the Ministry of Science is the only one that acknowledged our request, whereas all the others - including the Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia - completely ignored our requests and have not replied to any of our letters and calls. These include the Ministry of Defense, where many young men serve their military service and have almost nothing to eat or need to eat at their own expenses; the Ministry of Education, where many vegetarian adults and children study; the Ministry of Health, which institutions do not offer vegetarian meals; and the Ministry of Tourism, who refuses to make Croatia appealing to vegetarian tourists. These Ministries have not responded yet, although the same request has been sento to them several times over the last few months, and thousands of signatures have been collected through our petitions during the year.
Animal Friends is willing to contribute by organizing vegetarian food preparation courses, arranging inexpensive purchase of vegetarian food and preparing the menus. But Croatian officials are still doing their best to prevent any progress and improvement, and are not willing to adopt some positive Western values and trends.
It is time for the Croatian public to realize that 5% of our citizens do not have their basic right: the right to a meal. Vegetarians and vegans are citizens who, like everybody else, fulfill their obligations. But in return, they are refused to get what others can get easily in a public institution, a meal.
Croatian conscripts, students, workers and all other users of public institutions are not less important or second-class citizens! So why are we treated that way? We ask the Republic of Croatia to introduce vegetarian and vegan meals into public institutions and let them know that we have strong public support, by showing them the thousands of signatures that we have already collected.
On Human Rights Day, 5% of the Croatian citizens are being denied the right to a meal. The number of vegetarians in our country is increasing each year due to health reasons, animal-related diseases such as the mad cow disease and the increasing human awareness of animal suffering. That number will continue to increase. How much longer will we stay victims of discrimination, how much longer will our basic needs be ignored, and how much longer do thousands of people have to experience problems and embarrassment during each lunch break?
On Human Rights Day, we would like to remind everyone that there are many problems in our society and a lot of them are hard to solve, but we will do our best to deal with at least one issue: the right to a meal for all citizens of our democratic state.