It seems there’s a bit of trouble brewing at the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), an organisation I’ve been a member of for over 40 years. The latest bother arises after an employee was dismissed and who is now claiming redress through an employment tribunal – arguing that he was discriminated against because he is a vegan. This in his view is equivalent to e.g. being dismissed on the grounds of religious belief. The League strongly refutes the entirety of his allegations, and cites several vegan employees who are happy working for LACS. This argy-bargy follows other recent personnel changes, including the resignation of board member Chris Williamson MP, so there may be a subtext here I’m not aware of.
The interesting question is whether veganism could be grounds for dismissal. Whether it was in this particular case true that the employee was unfairly sacked for this reason, which LACS denies, does not diminish an interesting question of principle – should veganism be recognised as akin to religion? Since more people are becoming vegans, and major food chains are catering for the rising demand for vegan food it was probably only a matter of time before a case of this sort arose, since the seriousness with which a form of belief is taken often, inevitably, hinges on whether it is seen as mainstream or fringe. As regards who now is considered vegan I have to wonder whether media pundits are fully aware that being vegan means giving up all animal sourced products of whatever kind, not just food. You have to go the whole hog, so to speak.
That being so, given the commitment it takes to be a vegan, and the implications for one’s lifestyle, I would say that veganism should be given the same due regard as religious belief when it comes to protection under the law. At least veganism is based on a straightforward ethical principle – that using another sentient being for one’s own purposes is wrong. This actually makes a lot more sense than choosing not to eat certain kinds of meat, or killing animals in a certain way, or sacrificing an animal instead of one’s own son merely to suck up to a deity.