Is veganism a religion?

Is veganism a religion?

Jordi Casamitjana is an ethical vegan, meaning that he seeks to avoid doing any harm to animals.[1] Whereas vegans follow a diet that excludes all animal products, ethical vegans also avoid other forms of animal exploitation. For example, they do not wear clothes made from wool or leather, or buy products from firms that engage in animal testing.[2]

Because of Casamitjana’s belief, he argued that he was wrongfully terminated after a dispute with his former employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, concerning their retirement investments in animal testing companies. Therefore, Casamitjana sued this organisation. As a result, a court in the United Kingdom was set to consider, for the first time, whether ethical veganism should be considered as a religion.[3]

Ethical veganism: a philosophical belief
According to the law, religions or beliefs have to satisfy several requirements. For instance, they should be “worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others.” Based on these requirements, in January 2020, Judge Robin Postle ruled that ethical veganism can be considered a philosophical belief.[4] This means that it should be granted equal anti-discrimination protection under the law as religions and other beliefs.[5]

According to theologian Kai Funkschmidt, veganism is indeed a philosophy with religious influences. For instance, important aspects of veganism are physical healing promises and promises of salvation; vegans hope that problems such as climate change and starvation can be solved when a sufficient number of people become vegan. Nevertheless, Funkschmidt argues that there is a lack of reference to transcendence in veganism, which is a fundamental difference compared to major religions such as Christianity.[6]

Consequences of the ruling
Now that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief, it is protected under the Equality Act, as religion and belief are one of the protected characteristics. The other eight characteristics that are also protected under this Act are age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex, and sexual orientation. This protection may have several practical implications. For instance, employers and those in education, for example, have to ensure they do not discriminate against ethical vegans on the basis of their beliefs. The BBC, for example, proposes that workers in supermarkets may refuse to handle meat products.

In addition, others may now be encouraged to request similar protection for their beliefs.[7] The BBC has commented that it would not be surprising if someone sued their company claiming to be discriminated against because of their beliefs regarding climate change. For instance, someone may refuse to travel for work by car, preferring to use a less polluting alternative such as the train, as a result of their beliefs.[8]

How about you?
What do you think? Should ethical veganism indeed be considered as a philosophical belief or as a religion? And what do you think the consequences of such a decision would be?


[1]A British Court Decides whether Veganism is a Religion
[2] Jordi Casamitjana vegan tribunal a ‘victory for animal protection’.
[3]A British Court Decides whether Veganism is a Religion
[4] Jordi Casamitjana vegan tribunal a ‘victory for animal protection’.
[5] Jordi Casamitjana vegan tribunal a ‘victory for animal protection’.
[6]Veganismus als Religion – Sieht so Gott aus?
[7] Ethical veganism is philosophical belief, tribunal rules
[8]https://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2020/01/03/news/gb_sentenza_storica_il_veganismo_e_come_una_religione_non_e_discriminabile-244904155/?ref=RHRS-BH-I244905232-C6-P14-S1.6-T1