Being vegan is protected by international law thanks to article 9 in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

According to The Vegan Society, this 10th of February marked 30 years since veganism was first recognised by law. Legal recognition for vegans is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights under Article 18 — the human right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This right is given legal effect in different countries through international human rights treaties, including Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which applies to the UK.

Article 9 grants an absolute right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, ensuring that human beings can live according to their ethical convictions without state interference. The article also gives freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs subject only to limitations prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health, or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

But, “the problem with veganism is that the assumption for applying the law is that we all agree that it is acceptable to use animals,” says The Vegan Society.

Veganism in court

On the 10th of February 1993, the case of a vegan prisoner known as C.W. raised the vegan rights reflected in Article 9 to courts for the first time. The prisoner took the United Kingdom government to court because he was forced to work with animal-tested dyes, contravening his right to freedom of belief.

At the end of the trial, the court did not decide in favour of C.W., arguing that the work did not breach his rights. Still, according to The Vegan Society, this case became a benchmark for the history of veganism because it helped to highlight that vegan beliefs fall within Article 9’s scope. In 2020, this recognition was a reference to confirm that veganism is also protected under British equality law.

“The legal recognition of veganism has led to many changes in practices and policies over the years, resulting in greater inclusivity for vegans in education, employment, and health care,” says the organization.

Compassionate living as moral baseline

The issues vegans face in their daily attempt to live according to their values range from inadvertent unfair treatment to direct discrimination and institutional exclusion.

Article 9 served as the ground for Jordi Casamitjana’s case in 2020, which confirmed that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by law. Additionally, a Bristol student named Fiji Willets won a lawsuit against her college following support from The Vegan Society, after she was told she had to take a module on farming or fail the course.

Vegan rights advocate Dr. Jeanette Rowley states: “It seems absurd that people need to apply for the protection of law to help them avoid participating in the exploitation of non-human animals and protect them from discrimination simply because they wish to practice compassion.

“The protection afforded to vegans under Article 9 brings into sharp focus the moral standing of other animals and their suffering and shines a light on protection for compassionate living. In a world where other animals are excluded from a protective rights framework themselves, legal protection for vegans is surely worth celebrating.”

The Vegan Society offers a rights service that provides information on Article 9 to support vegans who face unfair treatment, direct discrimination, and institutional exclusion.

Original source: https://vegconomist.com


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