Ethical Veganism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Ethical Veganism and its philosophy

An employment tribunal in the UK has ruled that “ethical veganism” is a philosophical belief and has to be protected by law against discrimination.

What’s the issue about?

  • A man was fired from an animal welfare charity for raising concerns about its pension funds’ alleged investment in companies that use animal testing.
  • He for gross misconduct on insisting to ban fox-hunting and other types of recreational hunting in Britain.
  • The tribunal had to determine if ethical veganism fit the criteria of a religious or philosophical belief.
  • The tribunal determined that ethical veganism meets the test required to be a philosophical belief, because of which it is protected under the British Equality Act, 2010.
  • Many vegetarians claimed that they were discriminated at workplace for not eating meat. In his case, the tribunal had dismissed the case, calling his vegetarianism a lifestyle choice.

Veganism, ethical veganism, and ethical vegetarianism

  • Broadly, a vegan person does not consume meat products and also products that are derived from animals (such as milk, eggs, etc).
  • ‘The Ethical Case for Veganism’ in the Oxford Handbook of Food Ethics, loosely defines veganism as a lifestyle choice to refrain from eating meat as well as products made from or by animals.
  • Ethical veganism, on the other hand, has been defined as the view that attaches a positive ethical valuation to a vegan lifestyle.
  • Significantly, ethical veganism is different from ethical vegetarianism — the latter makes a distinction between products made from animals, such as meat, and products made by animals, such as milk.
  • Ethical vegetarianism is opposed to products made from animals in particular.
  • There is also an ethical omnivorism, which permits the use of some animal products and may restrict the use of others based on some ethical criterion, say the authors of the Food Ethics paper.

Types of ethical veganism

  • They mention two types of ethical veganism: broad absolutist veganism, under which it is always wrong to use any product made by or from animals, and modest ethical veganism, under which it is typically wrong to use products made from or by a range of animals including cats, dogs, cows, pigs, etc.
  • An example of the former category is a person who would not press a leather button, “even if doing so were necessary in order to avert global nuclear war”.
  • The reasons for adopting veganism as a lifestyle can range from wanting a better and healthier lifestyle, environmental, or religious reasons.

Britain’s Equality Act

  • The act protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in the wider society in the UK.
  • The Act offers a basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimisation in services and public functions, etc.
  • Under the Act, a belief is defined as any religious or philosophical belief.
  • Since the tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief, it is a protected characteristic under the Act.

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