The Right to be a Vegano: How are Vegans Protected Under Brazilian Law?

You are here

» The Right to be a Vegano: How are Vegans Protected Under Brazilian Law?
Symbol of law and justice with the Brazillian flag

Alexandra Cantarelli explains how principles enshrined in the Brazilian constitution support vegans

As well as in the rest of the world, veganism has been rising in Brazil, with an estimated 10 million Brazilians declaring themselves as vegan and 40 million as vegetarian in 2023.2 Furthermore, there are over 240 vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the country.3 Brazil’s Meatless Monday movement is the greatest in the world, being well-supported by State governments and animal rights associations, and helped to avoid the consumption of two thousand tons of meat in 2017, for instance.4 The increase of veganism in Brazil is significant, considering its meat-driven culture: Brazilian agribusiness is extremely powerful, whether from an economic or political perspective.

When it comes to legislation, debates about animal rights have increased in the last few decades in Brazil. Although animal testing and farming are still legitimate  businesses, Federal and Constitutional legislation forbids abusing, mistreating, injuring or mutilating animals.5 Similarly, the use of non-human animals in scientific experimentation is only permitted if several requirements are met, and on the condition that no alternative method of achieving the objective is possible.6 While some animals have some protection under the Brazilian legal framework, what about vegans and vegan rights?

In Brazil, there is still no specific legislation where the word ‘vegan’ is associated with fundamental rights that would explicitly protect vegans’ beliefs and prohibit discrimination. Nonetheless, Brazil’s Democratic Constitution of 1988 establishes important fundamental rights which are guaranteed to all, and some of its provisions can be associated with veganism and interpreted as protecting vegan rights on a par with relevant articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Declaration on Fundamental Rights.

Title II of the Brazilian Constitution contains one of its most important provisions, which explains fundamental individual and collective rights and duties. Article 5 establishes on its caput that ‘everyone is equal before the law, without distinction of any kind, guaranteeing Brazilians and foreigners residing in the country the inviolability of the right to life, freedom, equality, security and property’. Article 5(I) provides the principle of isonomy, where material equality between citizens requires the absence of discrimination between genders, classes, race, or beliefs. Within the caput and item I, therefore, and considering veganism as a life-directing ethical belief, vegans cannot be discriminated against just for being vegan, and should not be treated differently from others who are not adherent to the same life choices. Similarly, as established by item II, which establishes that no one will be obligated to do or not to do something unless it is established by the law, vegans cannot be set apart from others and compelled to adopt behaviours that go against their beliefs – such as being forced to eat a piece of meat, and drink a glass of milk, for example.

Following the logic that vegans are equal beneficiaries of the provisions of the Constitution, Article 5, items IV and VI are also relevant to veganism. These establish, respectively, that ‘expression of thoughts is free, being prohibited anonymity’7 and ‘freedom of conscience and belief is inviolable, the free exercise of religious worship is guaranteed and, in accordance with the law, the protection of places of worship and their liturgies is guaranteed’. These provisions include political and philosophical beliefs. Moreover, the first part of item VIII provides that ‘no one will be deprived of rights due to religious belief or philosophical or political conviction’. Under those provisions, as veganism can be considered an expression of thought or a belief, Brazilian entities and citizens should guarantee that vegans are able to exercise veganism freely and respect their choices and lifestyles free from discrimination. Moreover, Federal Law No. 5250/1967 specifically regulates freedom of expression of thought and information, establishing that ‘the expression of thought and the search, receipt and dissemination of information or ideas is free, by any means, and without dependence on censorship, with each person responding, in accordance with the law, for the abuses they commit’. This provision permits vegans to promote their beliefs and forbids citizens from committing abuses within their thoughts and expressions against vegans.

As such, hospitals and health institutions, for example, should provide healthy vegan food options for their patients, and public schools should ensure their vegan students have a nourishing vegan meal on a par with their non-vegan peers. On this matter, Technical Notice No. 8/2019 from the National School Feeding Program (PNAE), which establishes guidelines to be followed by public schools all around the country, provides that students who are vegetarian are ensured ‘the supply of food appropriate to their option/condition’,8 which represents a huge step in guaranteeing vegan children their Constitutional fundamental rights.

In addition to Article 5, two other provisions can be highlighted as important to enhance the right to be vegan under the Constitution. Article 196, for instance, establishes the right to health. Given the health benefits of adopting a vegan diet, ranging from lowering cholesterol levels9 to improved gut microbiota,10 vegans should have easy access to healthy vegan options in Brazil, including being able to consume good, healthy vegan food in restaurants, and, as mentioned above, health institutions and schools. Finally, Article 225 provides the fundamental right to an ecologically balanced environment. Since the adoption of a vegan diet promotes significant environmental protection, considering the damaging impact of animal farming and mass deforestation in the Amazon rainforest11 or the increase of greenhouse gas emissions,12 a connection between the right to be vegan and the right to a healthy and sustainable environment is relevant to this provision in the Constitution. In this regard, being vegan can be considered important to guaranteeing Brazilian citizens their environmental rights, and, thus, it should be respected, promoted, and protected under the law.

Moreover, Brazilian jurisprudence includes interesting cases involving consumer legislation and the need to protect vegans and effectively respect their right to not consume any animal products. The Court of the State of Paraná, for instance, decided in favour of the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by a consumer – who was vegan for years – against a restaurant. In this case, the defendant served the vegan plaintiff food with an animal-based cheese which was specified on the menu as vegan cheese. The non-vegan cheese caused the plaintiff digestive issues and embarrassment.13 The Court ruled that this was a case of explicit moral damage to the vegan consumer, who was subjected to false premises by a food establishment. As pointed out above, this kind of situation is exactly what vegans should not be exposed to and is an example of the violation of their constitutional and consumer rights.  

In a nutshell, despite the lack of explicit reference to vegans within Brazilian Federal legislation, the Constitution’s fundamental rights do, indirectly, cover vegan rights. They allow vegans to express their convictions, establish the duty of citizens and institutions to respect and permit vegans to properly exercise their beliefs, and go some way to ensuring better access to vegan food, medicine, and cosmetics.

Brazilian democracy is strong, and respect is valuable which offers further advantages for the protection of vegans. As a belief that seeks to preserve the environment and respect animals, veganism aligns with what the Brazilian Constitution preaches, and has the power to put it into practice.14 Finally, as veganism is still growing in Brazil, it is likely that veganos and veganism will be more visible, and more accommodated in both the public and private sectors, which may embrace the core fundamental rights established in the Constitution and explicitly recognise them as vegan rights as well.


[1] “Vegan” in Portuguese.

[2] The number of vegetarians in Brazil is growing; adherents could reach 40 million in 2023, G1, 19 Sep 2024 available at:, accessed 4 Feb 2024 (in Portuguese).

[3] Veganism in Brazil: how it works, Vegan Business, 3 Jan 2024, available at:,ano%2C%20apesar%20da%20crise.%E2%80%9D, accessed 4 Feb 2024 (in Portuguese)

[4] Meatless Monday in Brazil is the greatest in the world, Brazilian Vegetarian Society, 22 Sep 2022, available at: , accessed 4 Feb 2024.

[5] As provided by Article 225, para. 1, item VII of the Constitution and article 32 of Environmental Crimes Law No. 9.605/1998.

[6] See, e.g., Federal Law No. 11.794/2008.

[7] Freedom of thought cannot be expressed namelessly, for public security reasons.

[8] See Technical Notice No. 8/2019, item 8.8.

[9] CA Koch, EW Kjeldsen, R Frikke-Schmidt, ‘Vegetarian or vegan diets and blood lipids: a meta-analysis of randomized trials’, European Heart Journal, v 44, 28, 21 July 2023, pages 2609–2622.

[10] MW Wong, CH Yi, TT Liu, WY Lei, JS Hung, CL Lin, SZ Lin, CL Chen ‘Impact of vegan diets on gut microbiota: An update on the clinical implications’ Ci Ji Yi Xue Za Zhi. v 30, 4, Oct-Dec 2018, pages 200-203.

[11] See, e.g., ‘Revealed: rampant deforestation of Amazon driven by global greed for meat’, The Guardian, 2 Jul 2019, available at: , accessed on 4 Feb 2024, and E Pegurier, ‘Study links most Amazon deforestation to 128 slaughterhouses’, O ECO, 27 Jul 2017, available at:, accessed on 4 Feb 2024.

[12] FP O’Mara, ‘The significance of livestock as a contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions today and in the near future’, Animal Feed Science and Technology, v 166–167, 2011, pages 7-15.

[13] Tamiris Haidar El Wenni v. Organico Oscar Freire Alimentos Ltda., Third Appeal Court of the Justice Court of the State of Paraná, Inominated Appeal No. 0000956-70.2021.8.16.0030, 19 Sep 2022.

[14] VPA Junior, ‘A Constituição e o veganismo’, Migalhas, 27 Aug 2020, available at:, accessed 4 Feb 2024 (in Portuguese).

Reg. Charity No: 279228 Company Reg. No: 01468880 Copyright © 1944 - 2024 The Vegan Society