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Vegan Rights…A Vegan Religion?

Image: winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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…

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About the Author

SiddharthIyer Siddharth Iyer is a student from India, who is currently studying in Finland. He is a life long vegetarian who turned vegan in 2010.

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  • pickyvegan

    I disagree with the right to medication not tested on animals- I would rephrase that as the right to refuse medications tested on medications in all circumstances, the that all medications to be labeled with animal ingredients or testing. You can theoretically take an existing medication and reformulate to make it Kosher or something else, but you cant change the fact that everything has already been tested.

  • http://twitter.com/BeetEatingHeeb The Beet-Eating Heeb

    The solution is simple and is the one offered by The Beet-Eating Heeb: Veganism is a religious ideal and practice for Jews and Christians alike. A legal case can be made that we’re adhering to a vegan diet as a religious practice. This Jew certainly is. 

  • http://twitter.com/BeetEatingHeeb The Beet-Eating Heeb

    The solution is simple and is the one offered by The Beet-Eating Heeb: Veganism is a religious ideal and practice for Jews and Christians alike. A legal case can be made that we’re adhering to a vegan diet as a religious practice. This Jew certainly is. 

  • Sarah Husband

    I think the negative views of veganism are already out there, that its irrational, cultish, whatever, and not tied to whether its an official religion or not.  I say lets get the benefits other religions get, an excellent idea.  My husband was actually able to get a dissection waiver for veg. college students via a long arduous process with lots of meetings and contention.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if every university student had that right without having to go through all that?

  • Vegan 269

    There is a website of an organization called International Vegan Rights Alliance (http://www.theivra.com) which lists all vegan rights according to international and european law. Veganism is a belief system protected by Human Rights legislation. It is worth having a look since there is so much we vegans don’t know about when it comes to our rights. http://www.theivra.com

  • vmeditor

    Thanks for the info, Vegan 269

  • Aurora

    The problem with passing Veganism as a religion is that it will be subject to the same limitations as religion without having the reason that these limitations are in place (absolutist views of G-d). You could not advocate it in schools or government organizations (even for environmental or public health reasons) as it could be litigated as a preferential treatment of a religious group and infringing on people’s “freedom from religion”. Should the US find they need to stop meat production one day, citizens could protest an establishment of the Vegan religion. Extreme I know, but this is a bad idea all around. Veganism is a humanitarian movement akin to Abolitionism, Feminism, and LGBT rights. It is more in that category than it is in the category of religion, and I strongly argue that this is the method by which it will affect the most change. Religion divides and sanctifies, Civil Rights unifies and can span across any religion, belief system or lack thereof. We should keep the focus on the rights of animals (Feminists’ rights is just not the same as women’s rights!). Humane education and anti-cruelty legislation is the answer.

  • Aurora

    As an addendum, I do have to agree it is important to know our rights as vegans too so we can continue to live according to our ethics. Thank you for posting the link to IVRA! :-)

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