The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has sent letters accompanied by informative brochures detailing the health dangers of meat, egg, and dairy consumption to all state and union territory education ministries across the nation. PETA, on behalf of a consortium of 15 doctors and nutritionists, has urged that midday meal programmes in schools should consist of only healthy, humane, plant-based foods.
The health advocacy group Sanctuary for Health and Reconnection to Animals and Nature also sent a similar appeal.
In the brochure, the consortium points to modern research linking numerous health concerns including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and certain cancers to the consumption of animal-derived foods.
It explains that eggs and cow milk are among the biggest allergens for children. Antibiotic residue can be found in such foods, and meat, eggs, and cow milk are common causes of food-borne illnesses.
PETA points out that fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and pulses, on the other hand, are packed with fibre, are rich in vitamins and minerals, free of cholesterol, and low in saturated fat.
The brochure also provides a chart showing that readily available and affordable vegan foods often contain more protein or calcium than eggs or cow milk.
"Wholly plant-powered lunches would keep kids well-fed and energised and also prevent countless sensitive animals from suffering and being easier on the environment," says PETA India Vegan Outreach Coordinator Dr Kiran Ahuja.
The brochure also cites the World Health Organization's statement that half of all cases of malnutrition are linked to diarrhoea and intestinal parasites, often stemming from unsanitary conditions, and that the key to addressing malnutrition lies in ensuring hygienic conditions - not in giving kids foods like eggs and cow milk, which can make them even sicker.