Vegan activist at an event

Jordi Casamitjana says he was fired due to his vegan beliefs. Now he’s alleging religious discrimination.


Here’s a question: what makes a religion? Does it require worshiping a deity and attending services, or is it enough to simply hold a particular set of beliefs about the world?

A more pointed question: does veganism fall under the definition of religion?

That’s what a U.K. court is tasked with deciding after a man accused his former employer of religious discrimination. Jordi Casamitjana was fired from his position at a charity organization after objecting to his pension funds being invested in pharmaceutical companies that conduct animal testing, a practice that he says goes against the fundamental convictions of veganism.

And according to Casamitjana, it was these pro-animal beliefs – not his workplace conduct – that caused him to be let go. Although the U.K. doesn’t have any anti-discrimination statutes that apply to veganism, the law does protect against religious discrimination in employment. Casamitjana is arguing that ethical veganism is a religion, and therefore he was wrongfully terminated. He insists his situation is no different than someone getting let go for being Muslim or Jewish.

Heading to Court

It’s now up to an employment tribunal court to decide whether the organization discriminated against Casamtijana. To do so, the court must clarify if ethical veganism is indeed a belief protected by the U.K’s sweeping anti-discrimination statute known as the Equality Act. If the tribunal determines that ethical veganism is protected by law, the claim moves to a full trial.

In a statement to reporters, Casamitjana’s attorney said the lawsuit’s goal is to secure the “protected status of ethical veganism” as a sincere religious philosophy – thus proving his client was wrongfully terminated due to his beliefs. Legal experts say it’s potentially a landmark case – a strong precedent could affect discrimination claims against vegans in education, employment and many other areas.

What Is Ethical Veganism?

Dietary vegans eat a plant-based diet, avoiding anything produced or gathered from animals – such as honey, eggs, butter, and milk. Ethical veganism includes the same dietary restrictions, but it features an underlying philosophical component that informs other aspects of life. Within this movement is an activist faction that routinely organizes protests and other awareness-raising events.

Vegans protesting

Ethical vegans oppose the use animal products in all consumer products – not just food. They vigorously oppose scientific testing on animals and the use of use leather or fur in clothing. Ethical veganism requires making choices every day about what type of clothes to wear, what personal products to use, and what hobbies to take part in. Above all, this philosophy is committed to ensuring the least amount of harm against animals as possible.

PETA Breaks the Internet

According to some ethical vegans, simply refusing to eat meat or use animal products is not enough. In their mind, society is still heavily prejudiced against animals in other ways. Perhaps nowhere is this sentiment better exemplified than in a recent tweet by PETA pleading for an end to routine linguistic microaggressions against members of the animal kingdom:

The tweet quickly went viral, generating no shortage of sarcastic responses mocking the organization for taking its animal advocacy campaign a bit too far (though come on, who wouldn’t want to feed two birds with one scone?). Yet the message also generated over 30,000 likes – proving that there is indeed an audience for the gospel of radical veganism.

How Do You Define Religion?

There are certainly some people who will scoff at the idea of veganism as a religion. But it’s hard to deny that it at least has some religious elements. In fact, given the level of dedication and commitment it takes to live a full-on vegan lifestyle, one might even argue that vegans are more pious than many churchgoers out there.

But whether this merits special status protecting against discrimination is a much bigger question. With veganism on the rise in many countries, the issue doesn’t seem likely to go away anytime soon.

Where do you stand?

 

16 comments

  1. ET says:

    If religion is a philosophy, and veganism is a philosophy, and whatever each individual believes and practices in conducting life can be considered their philosophy, Then why is not a personal philosophy a religion?

  2. Janice Ellery says:

    The concept that animals also have souls is held by many eastern religions and even some christian sects. If you read Genesis we were originally meant to eat herb and plant products. People can be vegans or vegetarians for many belief reasons. I think this is no different than a Jewish person who is kosher.

  3. William Waugh says:

    I absolutely believe animals need our love. But, these folks need to adjust thier little tinfoil hats. Its cutting off oxygen somewhere. The more I read of these silly kinds of things, the more I’m convinced most of these people never ever leave the house. Human population requires industrial strength food production. Be specific in your efforts to help animals.I love them. Some are truly marvellous. Others, are meant to be eaten you dodo bird. If the eyes are on either side of the head and not together, it is food. No not a religion. Just a JV effort that lacks real knowledge and impact.

    1. Reverend Krystina S. says:

      Mr. Waugh: For your information, according to the recent findings about human-made Climate Change, the ONE SINGLE THING that would have the greatest effect on saving the Earth would be if selfish, cruel humans would STOP EATING OTHER CREATURES. More than alternative fuel vehicles, more than transitioning to renewable energy sources. There are myriad reasons for this, including destruction of habitat for pasture and animal feed production, the wastefulness of taking hundreds of pounds of concentrated perfectly good grains to make a small amount of flesh, the methane production of animals eating all of this grain product, the waste of and destruction of water resources, it just goes on and on and on. Eating meat is selfish and has no reason other than “I like it.” Well, if I told you I must slaughter little babies and eat them because “I like it,” you would think I was a freak. “I like it” is no excuse for destruction of our planet. It is NOT SILLY. Human population does NOT, by the way, require “industrial strength food production,” especially if we stop wasting our perfectly good food and land on feeding preferred “meat” animals. That is another post, where we talk about how indigenous and local food production is the most productive, etc. No, they are NOT meant to be eaten by humans. It is another post to explain how we are adapted to eat a vegetarian diet, from our dentition to our gastrointestinal tract, to our fingers. It is not nice to call people who are humane and compassionate, who wish to help humanity and our planet “dodo birds,” who by the way were slaughtered until they went extinct because they were naturally helpless to humans with weapons. Unlike the American Bison and the Passenger Pigeon, who were just “FUN” to slaughter by the tens of millions until they were almost (bison) and truly (passenger pigeon) gone forever??? Who is juvenile? Who sounds inarticulate and undereducated??? It is time to get educated about the TRUE costs of eating flesh.

  4. aralil says:

    I am a bit on the wall about this one. How and what we eat is a lifestyle choice was my first thought. But in saying that so aren’t our religious beliefs. Activism is also a lifestyle choice should you be the type that fully involved in the issues they are fighting. In some places it’s illegal to eat your pets yet we eat beef which is a religious symbol for millions of people. Though in this particular instance I think a person should have some say in how and where their pension is invested IF they have put their own money into it. To be honest I don’t know much about pensions ( i became fully disabled when I was 35) but from what I understand people do put their money in. Now if he was disruptive at the workplace I would see that as a reason for his termination.

    As a side note but still related to diets. while i was typing this it dawned on me that that we never hear from SOME of the 2.2 million Hindus in the US demanding we remove beef yet we are hearing such demands about things like bacon from SOME of the 3.3 million Islamics. ( population numbers include converts and not just those from the lands their religion is considered to have started in)

    In conclusion, this could turn into a real slippery slope damn fast. As the parable shows, when you try to please everyone you’re going to screw something up most likely yourself. And sadly. in this day and age we are having a blizzard of snowflakes who seem to get offended if you sneeze in the wrong direction.

    1. Reverend Krystina S. says:

      aralil, your point is… Muslims in the U.S. are more demanding than Hindus vis a vis … BACON? Really? Well, most Hindus do not eat meat at all. Most Muslims do not eat pork, and most Jews do not eat pork (not including Reformed.) And many other people do not eat pork. So your point is… We are not trying to “please” people. We are trying to do what it takes to 1. save the biosphere, 2. save humanity, 3. prevent suffering… Please see my response to Mr. Waugh. You know, one of the ways that people can manifest their beliefs is through their investments. There are entire companies devoted to investment vehicles which meet the needs of people who wish to “put their money where their mouth is.” Also, divestiture in “immoral” corporations is something that students and teachers have demanded from Universities, for example. Yes, it is very important. It is not about snowflakes, unless you are talking about the melting of the glaciers and the polar icecaps, as well as the planet warming to dangerous levels — perhaps in our lifetimes, certainly in those of our children and grandchildren!

  5. Amy Minckler says:

    Hi sorry for a second post but for some reason when I posted WordPress extension decided to use my school email rather then my normal one

  6. Lea says:

    Definning religion is a problem and religion should stay personal. Not enposed on anyone. A personal choice.

    I had something like this happen to me at work. It was donating to the Red Cross. My boss was always giving towards the benefits I put on. But I did feel bad letting her down on this matter. She could finger it out and told me I can choose who I wanted my domating to go to…My choice was not on there and I told her. I did not tell her what it was nor did I push the issue..I thank her for all her help for me but because of spiritual reasoning I had to decline…

    I feel this religion shit just goes to far and its bullying ways..There are other ways to deal with issues then taking things this far.

  7. cayugalakehomesteaders says:

    Because not all vegans practice the same religion if they practice at all. How would you define its God? Vegans practice food choice based on their ethics as do I. Spirituality folding in with how you feel and interact with other beings and the world. I can’t subscribe to vegans legally being defined as their religion and be protected under those clauses. Where is their book? Who are their pastors/reverends/priests? Most vegan “leaders” I know and interact with challenge my reasonable freedom of choice.

    1. Reverend Krystina S. says:

      Well, Taoism is not a “religion” in the traditional sense. But you can be a Practicing Taoist: that is your belief system. You can be a Jew, a nonpracticing Jew, and that’s okay. You still have Jewishness: you are Jewish. These things are difficult. You can be an Athiest: that is your belief, and you have rights based on that belief. Veganism is (pardon the pun) an animistic belief system, in which all animals are imbued with souls, and deserve our respect and adoration. This is similar to the Jain, a subset of Hindu, though they cannot kill ANY creature (feeding the rats, screens over their faces so they don’t breathe in an insect, brushing the ground gently as they walk– but also self-flagellation and other weirdness). We humans have many belief systems. Is there a reason we should try to prevent a belief system based on compassion, kindness, gentleness, humaneness, and love? I think that to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF didn’t specify HUMAN…. This, to me, is going back to the wonder and interconnection we used to have with our EARTH. To protect the animals, the plants, the water, the trees, and the people as well. CHOICE? Our selfish “choices” are KILLING THE PLANET. See my posts above.

  8. Gary Hynous says:

    Veganism is a dietary choice, not a religious matter. If you believe in reincarnation in terms of moving up the food chain from a single celled organism to a human being this presents yet another problem in terms of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden or Darwin’s “Origin of Species.” Your choice. What about an ovo-lacto vegetarian? Should we waste eggs, butter, milk and cheese? I certainly don’t like the way the food industry raises animals for food. Really inhumane. Why stop animals from producing things like milk and eggs. Problem here is the way the animals are treated. Free range chicken anyone? Problem here is supply and demand and the profit motive in a Capitalist society. Mass produce everything in our throw away country. Recycle like China? Guess I’ll barbecue some steaks tonight. Just kidding!! Don’t really have a good answer to this problem. Like most issues this one will be difficult to resolve to everyone’s satisfaction.

    1. cayugalakehomesteaders says:

      I think in part because we’ve become a society that cannot old school debate for points and not take it personally if your opinion does not align with others. It’s become polarized. I’ve had to practice stating I agree to disagree and move on.

    2. Reverend Krystina S. says:

      Mr. Hynous, you seem confused. Please see my previous posts, then respond, and we can discuss more rationally. Reincarnation is part of one belief system. “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden” is part of another belief system. Darwin is science. There is no cognitive dissonance between science and God, for example. I was taught (Eastern Orthodox Christian) that we cannot know all the mysteries of God, and that the more we know of science, the greater the majesty of God. And so it seems to me personally. The complexities of our brains, of the universe, of evolutionary biology, etc. just give me a sense of awe. I don’t get the “God or Science” debate. It seems stupid. You do not understand the concept of large-scale farming, AS IF “eggs, butter, milk, and cheese” just magically appear. The dairy and egg industries are both disgusting at the factory level. Back in the day, a human might milk their own cow/goat/water buffalo/camel/etc. and, to prevent spoilage, make other products, and use them sparingly. Fewer people, fewer animals, NO WASTE. I don’t want to go on because the real points are made in my posts above, and I think ou are being specious. It’s not just “supply and demand and profit motive.” It’s our selfish obsession with eating FLESH. Bless those people with the depth of foresight to show us the way to a better world. Yes, veganism is part of a greater belief system. Absolutely. A REVERANCE for all life. What could be better than that? Who could be more wonderful??

  9. ET says:

    To change social norms over time, except for outright violent revolution, it takes gentle pressure relentlessly applied. We could all be vegetarians some day (but not in my lifetime please).

    1. Reverend Krystina S. says:

      ET, I was with you till the parentheses. Why not? because of your selfish “likes?” That is why they are trying so hard to make great meat analogues, which appear to be like “the real thing.” For the flesh eaters. I myself don’t like meat analogues, but that’s just me. There is so much more variety in the diet when you don’t base it on a part of an animal. Please rethink what you said. Even eating smaller amounts of meat, or not putting meat in everything, would really help. For example, spaghetti sauce without ground beef/turkey. Just the sauce. With yummy veggs and herbs, not gristle! You can most certainly be creative. And you know that eating meat is unhealthy just like smoking cigarettes!!! Ask any modern dietician what’s the best diet to live a long and healthy life. I know many people whose doctors have told them to STOP EATING MEAT, or that would be it for their heart. And it promotes osteoporosis. I could go on. SO you could just make it your own personal health thing. Since most people selfishly make it about “but i like it waaaaaah.”

  10. John D. Partin says:

    Would becoming vegan mean that a gay man would have to be celibate? I am just asking for a friend.

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