As a vegan and an animal rights activist, my thoughts are usually concerned with animals and how I can stand up for their rights. However it is also important to protect our own rights; to look after our own well being to allow us to continue to help animals.

Too often I hear of vegan friends describing casual harassment they have experienced, usually in the workplace. Whilst it is sometimes easier to let it go and not make a fuss, what many people – including employers – do not realise is that in Europe, veganism is a belief under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides the Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This means that:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

(2) Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are 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 the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

“Article 9 has also been applied to philosophical beliefs including atheism, veganism, environmentalism and pacifism”.

Under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights all member states have a duty to prevent vegans from suffering discrimination or victimisation because they are vegan. Vegans should not receive unfair treatment or harassment because they are vegan, nor should they be disadvantaged or humiliated.

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Under International Law, vegans are covered in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (The Declaration). The following excerpt is taken from www.theivra.com, where you can find excellent sources of information about veganism, the law and your rights:

– Under Article 1 of The Declaration, vegans are equal in dignity and rights.

– Under Article 7 of The Declaration, vegans are equal before the law and entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law.

– Under Article 18 vegans are entitled to their belief and have the right to manifest their belief in teaching and practice.

– Under Article 22 a vegan is entitled to social and cultural rights indispensible for their dignity and free development of their personality.

– Under Article 25 a vegan is entitled to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being including food, medical care and social services.

– Under Article 26 vegans have the right to a vegan education.

– Under Article 28 vegans are entitled to a social order in which their vegan rights are respected and provided for.

– Under Article 29(2) law can limit a vegan’s right to exercise rights and freedoms only if in exercising their rights vegans do not recognise or respect the rights and freedoms of others; or if in pursuing their vegan rights vegans compromise society’s moral code, public order or the aims of a democratic society.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was formalised by 2 Covenants. These Covenants gave legal force to the social, economic, cultural and political rights of all people as described in the Declaration. These were the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). They restate our rights and indicate the obligations of member nations.

In summary, no-one has the right to treat you any differently because you are vegan.

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