Many vegans are discriminated and attacked for their beliefs. Marginalising an ever growing part of the population can be adding to the rise in hate-crimes across the UK. I was asked to take part in an interview piece for Vice magazine written by the astonishingly talented Salma Haidrani last week, which I was didn’t manage to squeeze into before editing (I’ll be the first to admit my answers are not nearly as well-worded as the other participants)
but I still want to share my views on the booming topic.
In an unprecedented case against an employee (and Animal Rights activist) of a ‘vegan-friendly’ animal rights’ charity has taken the charity to court on the grounds he was sacked after finding out their pension fund had invested in a company that is involved in animal rights testing.
– What was your initial response when you first heard about this court case? What do you hope the outcome of the court case will be?
Initially I leapt to the conclusion that there was something more sinister going on, because normally vegans are the butt of the joke or the victim in the story. But after ready the full story, or as much of it as I could see on BBC and Sky news *I had read in the stories that the employee had released private documents to state these companies had been testing on animals (something his contract laid out he was unable to disclose). In that case he was fired and he claimed he’d been discriminated against over a long period of time.
My understanding was that the court case is based on misconduct and ‘presumed’ discrimination.
As with cases like these it’s hard to determine whether or not long-term discrimination had been happening at his place of work but regardless, he broke their conduct so I would hope that the company he works for see justice in this case. Understandably, working for a company who mis-treat in any way their employees, is incredibly hard but there are routes to take that are appropriate.
– If ethical veganism was to be given the same protections as religion and religious status in March 2019, how would you feel? Do you think veganism is similar to religion and is a philosophical belief?
In terms of being given protections, I 100% believe that everyone’s choices and beliefs in life should be considered with understanding (if respect isn’t something people can give, understanding should really be a minimum). That being said, I think veganism is more a kin to philosophical beliefs that it is religious. Vegans are choosing to life their life in a certain way down to their understanding and thus, beliefs, of the world and not just following on from what they’re told (as is seen in religions and organised platforms similarly).
– What would you say to people who don’t believe that ethical veganism doesn’t deserve the same protection as religion, race, sexual orientation etc?
As long as peoples beliefs are productive in society, I would say that we should all be given the choice to take our understanding of the world and put that into practice to enable us to live the happiest lives possible for ourselves.
– How much easier would life be for you if ethical veganism was considered a ‘protected belief’ akin to Christianity or Islam?
‘How much easier life would be’ isn’t really a question for vegans, it’s really the opposite, we don’t choose to do it because it’s ‘easier’ to live this way, really, it’s about what’s best for everyone (ourselves, the environment and the animals).
It would be amazing to have protection and global (or at least National) understanding of what veganism is but that all comes down to understanding what ‘food’ is and my main goal since I first came into writing publicly has been to educate our children in what food and health is on a national scale.
With the greater understanding of what ‘food’ is, or children can make an informed choice on what they want to do for themselves and for the impact of society.
– Have there been times when your veganism has created issues for you, e.g. in the workplace, wider family, friends etc.?
Yes. I’d love to say ‘No veganism is wonderful and I’ve never had an issue’ but really, it’s chaos. Most of the time issues are due to lack of education (yes – again), when eating out staff don’t understand what products come from animals which makes eating out near impossible unless you’re going to one of the few vegan restaurants.
There’s also work, working in the manufacturing industry! So, opinions on my breakfast and lunch can become a sore topic but I find that joking around about the positive reasons to be vegan starts a conversion on positive terms (a lot of the time I think they genuinely just want to ask questions but don’t know how to).
– People might say that the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK (record numbers of anti-Muslim attacks rose in the past year) deserves far more protection than veganism – what would you say in response?
Everyone deserves protection but if there is an increase in attacks against Muslims we need to really focus on them. Everyone deserves equal protection (whether for religious reasons, dietary reasons, ethical reasons or just for a person’s choice of clothes!), so stopping an increase in attacks needs to be important.
– Do you think this case will set precedent for other court cases? (one Twitter account suggested that this could lead to “Star Trek fans demanding the right to exclusively speak Klingon while at work”)
I think it really could, there was a popular case a few years ago where a transgendered person legally changed their gender to identify as the opposite gender by law. This year we had a man wanting to legal change his age by law. As farfetched as some of these cases may be, there’s always a precedent for wanting change and perhaps in a few years we might see protections for people who choose to dye their hair or wear certain clothes.
– How does the vilification of vegans in the mainstream media make you feel? E.g. trolls were targeting a vegan activist after the former food editor of Waitrose had to step down after emailing her to “killing vegans one by one” and to “force-feed them meat”.
Disconnected from the world. It makes me feel like the rest of the world are in black and white, not understanding what real emotion and feeling is. How can other humans treat people (and beings) like that?
Again, I feel like the people who are choosing to attack vegans are genuinely misunderstanding WHAT it is, what our aims and goals are. I think there’s still a stigma that we’re all animal huggers and would sooner see humans suffer than animals.
Generally, that’s not the case.
We want to see people go vegan for the betterment of the planet, offering humans a life-line in climate change, health improvements and the protection of animals.