Vegan Society lawyer on why veganism should be given same legal rights as religion

2 January 2020, 20:13

The legal adviser to the Vegan Society told Tom Swarbrick why she thinks veganism should be given the same protection in law as religion.

This is after Jordi Casamitjana entered into a landmark legal battle this week to ensure 'ethical veganism' is awarded the same rights as other beliefs.

Dr Jeanette Rowley defined veganism as an "ethical orientation that revolves around the respect for animal suffering and vegans live according to deep and sincere convictions that animals have rights and are entitled to their life. We should not abuse or exploit them."

She pointed out that veganism is already protected under the right to freedom of conscience, which is the right to live according to your ethical convictions without unlawful discrimination or interference.

Tom asked why this way of life should be given the same attribution as religion and Dr Rowley said, "From the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they go to bed we make ethical choices about what we wear, what we eat, the events we might be invited to attend." She also referenced Jordi Casamitjana's conviction not to sit on leather seats.

Tom referenced Dr Rowley's blog piece for the Vegan Society: "Do you think non-human animals should have an equivalence of human animals?"

Sacked employee Jordi Casamitjana, who shuns buses and figs, hopes his tribunal will be a landmark.
Sacked employee Jordi Casamitjana, who shuns buses and figs, hopes his tribunal will be a landmark. Picture: Jordi Casamitjana

"I believe in the extension of social justice to all sentient life," she said, "the moral standing of sentient beings is equal."

"If an animal kills an animal, is that animal a murderer?" asked Tom.

"There is some philosophy that says a human has a duty to intervene where an animal is likely to be killed by another animal but this case isn't discussing that philosophy. This case is just merely going to confirm that vegan beliefs meet the legal test for protection," she said.

Tom asked if Dr Rowley personally subscribes to this belief. She said: "I'm very very interested in how we can extend social justice fairly to non-human animals."

Tom asked if people who eat meat are making worse moral choices than vegans.

"I think there is a moral imperative to give respect to the moral standing of animals. I think animals have a basic right to life and we owe animals a duty of care and compassion," Dr Rowley said and emphasised that this case will confirm veganism passes the legal test to ensure it is included in anti-discrimination legislation.