In the UK and other countries, a way of life has no legal protection, but an ethical or philosophical belief does. According to a recent Reddit thread, some vegans find it frustrating when other vegans refer to their food choices as a way of life because it trivializes the ethical and philosophical underpinnings of their beliefs.
“Mountain biking, fitness, minimalism, gaming, etc. are lifestyles,” the Reddit post reads. Veganism, according to many, is more than that.
In fact, ethical veganism is protected by the UK Equality Act 2010. To qualify for legal protection, a philosophical belief must meet specific criteria, including being sincere, substantial, compelling, significant and compatible with the dignity and human rights. Veganism meets these criteria and in the UK is recognized as more than just a way of life.
“Whenever someone calls veganism a lifestyle, I just ask them if their ethical stance on murder is a ‘lifestyle choice,'” one commenter said.
“What is Veganism: An Ethical Position. What veganism is not: a way of life. A personality trait,” said another commenter.
What is ethical veganism?
Veganism has grown in popularity in recent years and is the practice of abstaining from consuming animal products, such as meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. However, while veganism may appear to be solely about food choices, it is actually a broader ethical and philosophical belief system that extends beyond what is consumed.
At its core, ethical veganism is based on the belief that animals are sentient beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and that it is morally wrong to exploit them for human purposes. This includes not only abstaining from eating animal products, but also avoiding products that involve animal testing, wearing clothing made from animal products, and supporting industries. that harm animals, such as zoos and circuses.
While some people may adopt a vegan lifestyle for health or environmental reasons, ethical vegans do so primarily based on their belief that exploiting animals is wrong. This belief is rooted in a deep concern for animal welfare and rights, and a desire to live in a way that reflects these values.
Is veganism legally protected?
In many countries, including the UK, ethical veganism is recognized as a philosophical belief and is protected by anti-discrimination laws. This means that people who share this belief cannot be discriminated against in the workplace or in other areas of public life. This acknowledgment is an important step towards recognizing the validity and importance of ethical veganism as a belief system.
The first case in Britain to decide whether ethical veganism is a philosophical belief occurred in 2018 during an employment hearing between animal welfare organization League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) and the former employee Jordi Casamitjana. Casamitjana, a lifelong vegan, alleged he was fired for “gross misconduct” after discovering and informing colleagues that the LACS employee pension fund was invested in companies involved in animal testing, despite being told by management not to communicate with the staff. on this subject.
In early 2020, the court judge issued a landmark ruling that ethical veganism was a philosophical belief, and therefore a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This means that vegans should be entitled to the same legal protections in UK workplaces as those who hold religious beliefs. beliefs.
“I am extremely satisfied with the conclusion we have reached,” Casamitjana said in a statement at the time.
“The case established that ethical vegans are protected from discrimination, and I received the acknowledgment that I requested that my dismissal was based on my ethical veganism and was not justified or justifiable.”
Similarly, in Canada, the Ontario Human Rights Code was amended in 2016 to include non-religious beliefs such as ethical veganism after Canadian animal rights organization Animal Justice successfully petitioned the Ontario Human Rights Commission to include secular belief systems and ideologies in the definition of “creed.”
And in a groundbreaking case in 2019, vegan firefighter Adam Knauff sued his employer, Ontario’s provincial firefighting force, for violating his right to access vegan food while he was deployed out of province for work.
In 2017, Knauff was sent to Williams Lake, British Columbia, to help fight record-breaking wildfires that forced the evacuation of thousands of residents. For 10 days, as Knauff worked up to 16 hours a day in physically demanding conditions, he faced a lack of vegan food at the base camp where he was stationed.
After venting his frustration, Knauff was sent home, disciplined, and suspended without pay for a period.
“I’m vegan because I don’t want to hurt or kill animals,” Knauff said in a statement at the time. “My beliefs must be respected, including when I am at work fighting forest fires. Veganism has incredible potential to change the world by promoting compassion and respect for others, and it should be celebrated, not punished, shunned, or belittled.
In a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the 40-year-old alleged that his employer had disregarded his dietary requirements and that he had been discriminated against when his supervisors prevented him from respecting his vegan principles.
“More and more people are avoiding animal products because they recognize that the industrial use of animals causes unacceptable animal suffering,” said Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, in a statement to the ‘era.
“The world is changing and it is important that employers respect the sincere beliefs of vegans. In modern times, secular beliefs like ethical veganism can be just as important to one person as religious beliefs are to another.