Scottish Government Urged to Give Equal Rights to Vegans

An organisation in Scotland is urging the government to modify their policies to deliver fairer treatment to citizens across the country. The group, named Go Vegan Scotland, found that people identifying as vegan have been discriminated against by hospitals, educational facilities, and local authorities.

In a statement to LIVEKINDLY, the organisation said vegans are facing discrimination that threatens their health and education.

Go Vegan Scotland stated that a survey conducted by the group revealed that discrimination had occurred “in contravention of their rights under UK and European law.”

The survey found that respondents had experienced mistreatment in hospitals regarding their lifestyle choice. For example, patients suffering from eating disorders had been denied access to vegan food, as well as “force-fed” animal products.

Further, patients recovering from operations or childbirth had not been given access to food free from meat or dairy, sometimes going without food or discharging themselves early due to the lack of appropriate meals. Patients said they relied on food being brought to them by their families, though in some cases, they had been “refused permission to bring in suitable food” or had been pressured to eat animal products.

Patients reported that they were subject to “derogatory comments” as well as “inaccurate nutritional information” from medical professionals.

Similar situations have been observed in education environments. Parents and pupils reported that “teaching staff mocking the ethical choice of children and students”. Additionally, students had been “forced to participate in unnecessary experiments on animals” and “denied the opportunity to cook vegan alternatives in home economics”.

Other issues exposed from the survey included state employees not having access to vegan options in canteens, meetings, or training events. These individuals were sometimes “belittled” when requesting alternatives. A lack of vegan options for those in prisons, police custody, or on jury duty was also noted.

The group pointed out: Veganism is all too often treated as a restrictive diet rather than an ethical conviction”.

“In fact, veganism is not about food at all”.

They added that “veganism is a protected conviction under United Kingdom and European law, and has the same legal status as religious beliefs”.

They continue: That is not to say that veganism is like a religion (it is not), but rather that we have as a society recognised the importance of protecting people’s right to hold and live according to fundamental convictions to the same extent as we respect their right to hold and live according to religious beliefs.

The group is calling on the Scottish government to “act in accordance with these rights” to “remove or minimise disadvantages faced by vegans on account of their protected convictions.” The organisation provided examples of steps to take, which included: ensuring vegan options are available at state facilities, educating public sector workers on veganism and its legal status, and offering plant-based nutrition education for medical professionals.