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Are you being unfairly treated?

If you believe that you are currently facing discrimination due to your vegan beliefs, we are here to help. Do not forget that veganism is protected by international human rights law, and that you are entitled to basic respect from colleagues, managers and peers.

Under the Equality Act, vegans are protected from the following forms of discrimination and unfair treatment:

Direct discrimination occurs when you are treated worse than someone else in a similar context, simply because you are vegan. To claim direct discrimination, you must compare yourself to someone else who has not been disadvantaged. An example might be a manager telling you, off the record, that you have been overlooked for a promotion due to the fact that you are vegan.

Indirect discrimination can occur when you are subject to a rule, a practice or a policy that aims to apply to all people but, because you are vegan, it puts you at a disadvantage. This provision of the Equality Act is designed to be broad to cover formal and informal contexts and long standing or newly made policies, practices and rules. It also covers provisions and arrangements that are made presently or for a future date. To claim indirect discrimination, you need to show that other vegans would be also disadvantaged, even though there may not be other vegans present.

Harassment, under the Equality Act, is a term used in the broadest sense. You are a victim of harassment if, in the workplace, you feel distressed, intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended or when you are subjected to an environment in which you feel that your dignity is violated. Harassment can be caused when someone presents unwanted behaviour, such as jokes, verbal assaults or displaying images, that either intends or has the effect of making you to feel violated or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. If you find yourself in situations that invoke these feelings in school, when accessing services or as a consumer, you may still be protected by the Equality Act.

Victimisation occurs when a person has raised a complaint under the Equality Act about the way they have been unfairly treated, and are made to feel as if they are a ‘trouble maker’ or are are singled out in some other way, such as being left out or denied certain privileges from which others benefit.

Increase your influence with self-advocacy

Often the person best placed to speak up for you is – you. By speaking up for yourself, you are also helping the next vegan who comes along. You also help the Vegan Society’s International Rights team by giving them more time to deal with more difficult cases. Here are a couple of useful strategies for when you run into problems:

  • Remind service providers that good vegan-friendly options are suitable for almost anyone (including those with special requirements due to religious beliefs); therefore catering for vegans can give them a great competitive edge. Read more on advocating for vegan meals in schools here
  • Talk to other vegans through The Vegan Society networks, on social networking or using local notice boards. Chances are you’ll find someone who has encountered and overcome similar problems. Ask them for tips and ideas for dealing with specific situations.

As you grow in knowledge and experience you'll find you:

  • Become more confident in advocating vegan living and challenges become more manageable
  • Discover more about personal motivations for being vegan, making you more confident in your choices and beliefs
  • Will speak more confidently and will begin answering most common questions very easily.

At a glance: common challenges and solutions:

My child's school do not cater for vegans - All schools must allow vegans to bring in packed lunches by law if guardians are not satisfied with the vegan catering. To learn how to advocate for vegan meals at your school, read this blog.

I'm worried I won't have anything vegan to eat in hospital - If you are awaiting a hospital admission, try to speak to both the Hospital Registered Dietitian and Catering Manager at least two weeks before, or as soon as possible upon arrival. Contact The Vegan Society if there is an issue with this.

I don't control the money / shopping / cooking - Try to work constructively with those who do eg. by making budget meal suggestions, if they’re worried about expenses

I'm being ordered to use / wear non-vegan items by an authority - You have the right to request vegan-suitable alternatives, and the authority has a duty to make reasonable provisions for your beliefs

Most vegan resources are inaccessible to me - Contact us, as we can make suggestions on accessing information in an appropriate format eg. a Braille cookbook

I'm being legally detained against my will - Public institutions have a duty to respect the rights of vegans. Institutions that oversee minors, or adult populations, also have a duty of care to ensure everyone under their supervision has access to belief-appropriate nutritious food. Use all the support systems available to you, such as referral to a trained diet expert or the Vegan Society's Vegan Rights Advocate

I've bought a product that contains fur/wool/silk and it wasn't labelled - Animal products in clothing must be labelled in the EU. If you're in the UK, find out more from the British Standards Institute (0845 086 9001), complain to Citizens Advice or get your complaint referred to Trading Standards, who have powers to enforce the rules. If not from the UK, check the law for your state of residence, and follow similar procedures

I am being bullied about my veganism - We all enjoy human rights, including the right to act in line with our conscience. Veganism is a philosophical belief and principle of conscience. International human rights law does include respect for the beliefs of vegans. Read our blog on workplace bullying, and use all the support systems available to you.

You can read up on further advice and guidance from the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission here

When you need a helping hand

Extra support for challenging situations

If you’ve tried to resolve an issue on your own and it hasn’t worked out, don’t panic. There are support systems to help. One is the Vegan Society's International Rights team. We are able to contact and advise professionals on what services are suitable for vegans, and explain that living as a vegan is protected by international human rights legislation. If you need support, please contact us by email or telephone. For urgent assistance, please contact your local Citizens’ Advice service, seek a second professional opinion and/or consider taking legal advice. Remember, you're not alone!

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