What protection do vegans currently have?
In the UK, the law prohibits:
- Victimisation because you are vegan.
- Harassment because you are vegan.
- Unfair treatment as a result of being vegan.
- Treatment that puts you at a disadvantage owing to being vegan.
You are also protected from any unwanted conduct that:
- Violates your dignity.
- Causes you to feel humiliated (subjective feelings).
- Creates a degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment.
In employment this means that:
- If your employer provides food, you have the right to request and receive vegan food (for example, a working lunch).
- If you require safety wear, you have the right to request and receive vegan alternatives to standard equipment made from the skin of other animals (where these are available, and comply with required specifications).
- You have the right not to be humiliated, or to have to cope with an offensive or degrading environment, as a result of jokes or other remarks about veganism from your colleagues.
- If your employer has a practice or policy that puts you at a disadvantage because you are vegan, you have the right to request that the policy be amended. For example, a common practice is the office purchase of milk taken from cows. If you do not feel comfortable contributing, or taking a turn to collect this product, then it is reasonable to request exemption.
Socially, equality provisions mean that:
- You have the right not to be treated unfairly or disadvantageously by any service provider because you are vegan. This includes the catering industry. You have the right to request and be provided with vegan food. This applies to hotels, airlines, and other public transport.
Source: International Vegan Rights Alliance.
Where does this protection come from?
In the European Union, veganism is recognised as a "protected belief" under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Within the UK, this is implemented by the Human Rights Act 1998, and demonstrated in case law (H. v. the United Kingdom , 16 EHRR CD 44. Page 45).
So what's the problem?
The UK government is planning to replace the Human Rights Act with a Bill Of Rights.
If this new Bill Of Rights does not encompass veganism, vegans in the UK who have their rights infringed may need to pursue their case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg rather than through the national courts. (Note that The European Court of Human Rights is a separate entity to the European Union, and should not be confused with the European Court of Justice, the highest court of the European Union.)
Furthermore, once the UK has left the EU, the government would also be free to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, meaning that vegans in the UK would have no legal protection at all. And while the government says that it currently has no plans to withdraw from this Convention, the UK's exit from the EU would remove the main obstacle to doing so. (The Convention is mandatary for membership of the EU.)
Shouldn't you care more about animal rights / human rights?
Absolutely. And we do. But they're not mutually exclusive. And we believe that ensuring vegans rights are protected will help prevent us from having our time and energy wasted by bullying or discrimination, so that we can instead focus on campaigning for the rights of those who are exploited or oppressed.
Furthermore, this legislation makes it easier for vegans to stay vegan - indirectly reducing animal exploitation.