Change that leads to better lives

Standing up for your rights as a vegan or vegetarian

A blog from V for Life explaining how #SelfAdvocacyWorks for older vegans and vegetarians, particularly in health and care settings


For many vegans and vegetarians (collectively, veg*ns), their dietary choices are more than what they happen to eat, and in fact form a core part of their identity. Yet V for Life know through our work that many older veg*ns find themselves losing control over this basic decision as they age. So we have created a Self-Advocacy Pack to empower both older veg*ns and their loved ones to stand up for their rights.

The rights of older veg*ns to have their dietary preferences – and the beliefs and identity that underpin them – respected is something encoded in legislation such as the Equality Act and Human Rights Act, as well as various care regulations. This respect tends come easily enough to most adults when they’re younger, given that they can largely make and enact dietary decisions on their own account. But it starts to get much harder as our autonomy is reduced, and we become reliant on others to take the practical steps needed to uphold our values. Things look very different when we no longer have full control over what we eat, when we eat, and with whom we eat.

Nowhere is this clearer than in care. The loss of autonomy is even more pronounced if we experience a loss of capacity or cognition – and around 70 per cent of people living in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems. Suddenly, questions begin to arise such as ‘if I get dementia, will they serve me meat?’, and the answer is not always clear-cut. We hear stories such as how, with the best of intentions, vegan residents are fed food fortified with dairy ‘for their own good’ (when plant-based alternatives are easily available). Or how life-long vegetarians with severe dementia see meat all around them and start asking for it, even though it goes against their core beliefs.

It’s for exactly that reason that we have created the Self-Advocacy Pack. If there’s one message it promotes, it’s that we don’t need to wait until our autonomy is threatened to do something about it: the time to act is now. While we’re all liable at times to feel invulnerable, the reality is that diminished physical and mental capacity could come to us at any time. The Self-Advocacy Pack is a set of practical tools that allows us to take things into our own hands before a problem arises.

The guide informs the reader of their rights, and also the pieces of human rights and equality legislation on which those rights are based, alongside the relevant care regulations. It emphasises the importance of setting out how you’d like to be treated, so that this can be followed in the event of diminished capacity. And, while it’s better to act sooner rather than later, the Self-Advocacy Pack also supports people to advocate on their own behalf if already in a care setting, or to advocate on behalf of a loved-one.

V for Life hear time and time again from older vegans and vegetarians and their families who have been given food that goes against their fundamental dietary beliefs, particularly in social care settings. The Self-Advocacy Pack talks through the key steps in ensuring that this doesn’t happen to you, from creating a Statement of Wishes, through who to raise concerns with, on to how to seek redress if need be.

For many, this could be the difference between staying or not staying vegetarian or vegan for life.

For more information, and to download a free copy of the Self-Advocacy Pack, please visit

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