19th February 2020
Sandra Higgins discusses the rights of vegans in the workplace on East Coast FM radio
Go Vegan World has done extensive work on the legal rights of vegans through its Legal Counsel, Barbara Bolton. The vegan moral conviction that it is wrong to use or kill other animals is protected under European Human Rights and Equality laws, which apply in Ireland. The vegan non-religious belief has the same protection as religious beliefs. This means vegans have the right to live according to their conviction and employers must not discriminate against them or allow bullying or harassment in the workplace. The recent decision in England in the case of Casamitjana v The League Against Cruel Sports is an example of an employment judge confirming that veganism is protected in this way.
To ensure that they are complying with these rights, employers should include veganism in their inclusivity policies and training, ensuring everyone in their organisation understands the vegan conviction and how to be inclusive with respect to veganism, and recognises behaviour that could amount to harassment of vegans.
Despite media attempts to trivialise this issue following the release of The UK Vegan Society guidelines for employers, it is, in fact, very serious. Go Vegan World has recently conducted a survey on the experiences of vegans living in Ireland and the UK, and the results for Ireland confirm that discrimination, harassment and victimisation against Irish vegans in the workplace are all too common.
The results for Ireland showed: Some 20% of respondents reported having have been bullied or harassed in the workplace because of being vegan. A shocking 58% reported that there are no vegan food options in their work canteen. Over 30% have had to avoid workplace events because they involved exploitation of animals (e.g. training events that involve visiting a zoo or other form of exploitation or client events at horse races.) Many employees reported that they are afraid to assert their rights (for example by requesting an animal-free uniform at work or reporting harassment to HR) because they do not think their vegan conviction will be taken seriously; some report that they had to leave their place of employment because of the employer’s failure to respect their beliefs or ensure a respectful work environment.
We encourage vegan employees in Ireland to consult the Vegan Rights section of our website, which has a section on Ireland, and to make use of the sample letters drafted by our Legal Counsel, Barbara Bolton, to communicate their rights to employers. We are also working with employers to make them aware of their legal duties and help them implement necessary changes, in particular by providing relevant training, as the vegan conviction that animals should not be used as if they were unfeeling things will only be respected in the workplace when it is fully understood throughout an organisation. We offer assistance with this via email, telephone or skype.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any more questions.