Being vegan in society as it exists today can be difficult. The number of popular vegan products available are still relatively few (though that number is growing), and the ones that do exist are mostly restricted to the affluent countries of the world. Most pharmaceutical products and many cosmetic products are tested on animals. In addition to that, food at major institutions, like prisons and hospitals, do not cater to vegans. This presents a major problem for people who choose to follow a vegan lifestyle. In order for veganism to truly move into the mainstream, it is imperative that vegan rights are recognized not just by society, but also by our governments.
Some people see veganism as a luxury, but others are ready and willing to fight for the access to a vegan lifestyle as a right. It’s important for those who feel this way to stand up for vegan rights, and to ensure that the current system evolves into a sane and sustainable way of living that will allow people from all walks of life to make the vegan transition easily and comfortably.
Vegan rights involve:
- the right to vegan food and clothing;
- the right to drugs and treatments that are not tested on animals;
- the right to refuse vivisection and dissection of animals in our education systems;
- the right to live life freely by vegan values and philosophy.
In order to survive in this speciesist world, we need formal recognition of vegan rights. It’s difficult to live in a society where one’s values and our ideology are not understood, much less accepted. The recognition of vegan rights would also allow us, as a movement, to reach out to more people – of all backgrounds and walks of life – and to ensure that everyone who wants it has an equal opportunity to embrace veganism as a lifestyle.
How can vegan rights be established?
One of the ideas proposed by longtime animal rights activist, David Sztybel, is that vegans should be acknowledged as observing a creed or religion for legal purposes. To a court of law, religious rights are attended to with conscientious devotion. Sztybel argues that if veganism were recognized as a creed, governments would have to take vegan interests seriously and establish the above-mentioned rights. Like boys of the Sikh faith who are allowed to carry kirpans or ceremonial knives to school, the right to veganism, and all the lifestyle implications that come with it, would come under religious freedom. Vegan products, for example, would have to be labeled as such - like kosher and halal meat are labeled by law.
But is proposing veganism as a religion the best way to achieve rights for vegans? Religion does have negative connotations for some people – do we want to align veganism with that? As a movement, our aim is to inspire and invite non-vegans into veganism. If the movement was officially recognized as a religion, would it separate vegans even more from everyone else? Even worse, would some current vegans move away from identifying with the movement as a result? Vegans could be looked at as a cult, believers of faith with irrational ideals. Veganism isn’t a blind faith. It is a product of moral evolution. We don’t need scriptures to tell us to be compassionate. Would the benefits of establishing vegan rights through the framework of religion outweigh the risks of taking such a step?
While I believe that the establishment of vegan rights is an important step in bringing veganism into the mainstream, I’m not convinced that labeling veganism as a religion is the best way to do that. What are our other options? Share your thoughts and ideas here…