Since all medications currently go through animal testing and animal products are commonly used in their manufacture, decisions around taking medication can be complex for vegans. Many vegans find compromising their beliefs to be stressful and upsetting. You can find some information on veganism and medications here, and read our blog which explores the topic of animal products in medications here.
However, it has never been more important for us to talk about the definition of veganism in the context of medications, including vaccines. The definition of veganism recognises that it is not always possible or practicable for vegans to avoid participating in animal use, which is particularly relevant to medical situations. In the case of Covid-19, vaccination will play a fundamental role in tackling the pandemic and saving lives. As there is currently a legal requirement that all vaccines are tested on animals, at this point in time it is impossible to have a vaccine that has been created without animal use.
The Vegan Society believes in and works towards a future in which the role of animals in medicine is eliminated. Our campaign Make More Medicines Vegan tackles this issue, and we also work with organisations such as Animal Free Research UK. We care deeply about these issues, but there is a long way to go in this area. Here are some of Animal Free Research UK's thoughts on the topic:
"Even if a new human relevant treatment has been developed animal free, laws and regulatory agencies worldwide currently require that new drugs and treatments are tested on animals before clinical trials on humans. This usually involves tests first on mice, rats or rabbits and then on dogs or monkeys. These tests are required by law, and unfortunately non-animal tests are currently not accepted instead.
We are working to change the regulations so that effective non-animal research methods can be used to progress drugs into human trials quickly, safely and effectively.
We are also working with MPs to ensure that animal free research gains a prominent place on the political agenda and ultimately results in concrete changes in the law."
Currently Covid-19 vaccinations are not mandatory but we are aware that workplace vaccination polices are being implemented. Current guidance from ACAS recognises that employment vaccination policies are subject to equality legislation which requires that employers must be able to show that the policy serves a legitimate aim and any discrimination caused is proportional to meeting that aim. Vegans who do not wish to be vaccinated must be given due regard and may seek protection under the Equality Act 2010. The Vegan Society can offer information and guidance to vegans but ultimately only a court can decide if discrimination has occurred based on the specific facts.
Although the lateral flow test is widely available on the grounds that it helps reduce Covid-19 transmission rates, there is currently no legal requirement to take this test. Just as with the implementation of a vaccination policy, a requirement to take the test must be shown to be necessary to meet a legitimate aim proportionately. The lateral flow test is also offered in schools, and both teachers and pupils have to give consent to be tested. An allegation of unfair treatment as a result of not taking the test can also be assessed in relation to equality legislation. Vegans seeking support for these issues can contact us at knowyourrights[at]vegansociety[dot]com or call 07482 363922.
However, we would like to make it clear that The Vegan Society encourages vegans to look after their health and that of others, in order to continue to be effective advocates for veganism and other animals. It is the responsibility of each individual to make an informed decision about vaccines, bearing in mind the definition of veganism, with support from their local healthcare team.
Information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on the NHS website.
Our friends at the Vegetarian Society have summarised the government and manufacturer information into some key points.