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Ethical Veganism Protected by Law

by Charlotte Vile | Jan 20, 2020

An employment tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by law, meaning that public sector institutions and employers must take necessary steps to ensure that ‘ethical vegans’ are protected from discrimination.

The ruling is significant for employers, particularly those in food businesses working with animal products. Under the law, ethical vegans – that is, vegans who repudiate animal products and by products on animal welfare and environmental grounds, as opposed to those who consume a vegan diet for health reasons, would be permitted to reject any association with anything deemed unethical towards animals and/or the environment.

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Vegan Rights Advocate for The Vegan Society - Dr Jeanette Rowley - has been involved in the case from the beginning and gave evidence at the tribunal. She was kind enough to answer a few questions put to her by NCASS below:

Does the ruling apply solely to ethical vegans only?

Yes, the ruling applies to ethical vegans. They are likely to be able to evidence that they comprehensively manifest, in all areas of their lives, their genuinely held belief that it is morally wrong to exploit nonhuman animals. This does not rule out the possibility that new vegans on their ethical journey would not meet the legal test.

 
How does the law differentiate between ethical and non-ethical vegans?

There is a legal test to satisfy. A claimant must be able to show that they live their lives according to their genuinely held belief. Someone who eats a vegan diet but buys and wears skin, fur or wool, or doesn't mind buying and using other non-vegan products would not meet the threshold because they would be manifesting, by choice, only a partial commitment to the ethical position.

 
Quote: 'it would be quite easy for someone who eats a vegan diet for health reasons to take advantage of the ruling?'

Eating a vegan diet for health reasons only could come within the scope of our equality law but any protection afforded would be in a class of belief of its own just as a belief in anti-foxhunting is, or a belief in manmade climate change is. If someone wanted to take a case, they could but they would have to show how their belief meets the legal test. If they could achieve this (and it is not out of the question) we could see plant based eating for health classified as a protected characteristic for the purposes of applying our equality law. I would suggest that anyone eating a vegan diet and who attempts to make use of the ruling is an individual already on the path to ethical veganism and so would not be regarded as taking advantage of the ruling.

The Vegan Society has issued guidance to employers following the tribunal’s ruling on veganism as a protected characteristic which you can find by clicking here.  Jeanette Rowley is also able to offer guidance on this matter to employers (and employees) and can be contacted at info@vegansociety.com.

 

 









 
   
   
   

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