Anyone who follows us, has been to one of our talks or has spoken to us on one of our stalls, knows that we believe that the only way we will ever secure rights for other animals, secure their liberation from subjugation by humans, is through the promotion of veganism.
It is only when we see speciesism for what it is, and reject it, that we stop seeing animals as ours, here for us, and start to see them as individual living beings with their own interests and the fundamental right not to be our property. (See Francione, Animals Property and the Law).
Veganism is the rejection of the subjugation and exploitation of other animals. It is how we recognise the rights of other animals. Veganism is animal rights and the promotion of veganism is the promotion of animal liberation. We believe that animal liberation will only be achieved through the promotion of veganism, which is why our focus is on vegan advocacy.
Our advocacy is unequivocal; because animals are alive in the same way we are, because they feel, experience and want to live, we should not use or kill them. We should all be vegan. We help people to reach that conclusion for themselves and then to live vegan, and we encourage people who are already vegan to be similarly unequivocal and to help others to see that speciesism is morally wrong.
Being unequivocal does not mean being rude or condemnatory; we don’t attack people, we don’t vilify people, we never forget that we were once non-vegan.
There is much misunderstanding of what veganism is. The idea that it is nothing more than a diet, a personal decision to avoid eating certain foods, is now more prevalent than ever. The rise of plant-based eating is evident all around us, and the increase in options suitable for vegans is very useful. However, it can also be detrimental when it encourages the misunderstanding that veganism is nothing more than a diet.
Why does that matter? Because when veganism is viewed as a dietary choice the fact that it is the way in which we recognise the rights of other animals is completely lost. When we talk to people about what veganism really means we let them know that we have rejected the idea that animals are our things, which will challenge them to reconsider their own relationship with other animals and to see speciesism for what it is. If veganism is seen as just a diet, just about food, we lose that critical opportunity to draw attention to the rights of other animals and we abandon our social justice movement on behalf of non-humans. Veganism isn’t about us, it’s about them.
If veganism was a diet respondents to the GVS survey would not have: discharged themselves early from hospital following operations or child-birth as there was no vegan food; abandoned medication because they could not get animal-free versions; refused to participate in experiments on animals even although they would be penalised for doing so; avoided work and student events involving animal use, and exempted their children from school activities involving animal use. (See: GVS Survey Results ).
Highlighting these situations, demonstrating that veganism is not merely a diet, allows us to draw attention to the rights of other animals and the fact that hundreds of thousands of people live in recognition of their rights and have rejected speciesism.
The legal protections afforded to vegans in the United Kingdom (UK), and in the European Union (EU), are not well known or understood. Vegans in the UK have the same protections as those who hold religious beliefs. In the same way that someone who holds a religious belief has the right to manifest that belief, by living in accordance with it, so too do vegans have the right to live according to their moral conviction. Just as it is unlawful to discriminate against or harass someone because of their religious beliefs, it is unlawful to discriminate against or harass vegans because of their convictions.
These protections are little known and rarely used. If vegans have more awareness of their rights they can use them to call for respect for their fundamental convictions, thereby drawing attention to the rights of other animals and challenging others to reconsider their own relationship with other animals.
It is for that reason that the book Vegan Rights in the UK: Promoting Animal Liberation Using Vegan Rights was written. We want to disseminate the key information about our rights to other vegans living in the UK, so that they are aware of the rights they hold, how those rights apply in common situations, and what remedies are available to them in the event of breach. It is important that we have this information in order that we can more knowledgeably assert our rights on behalf of ourselves, our children and, ultimately, on behalf of non-human animals whose rights we recognise by living vegan.
Discrimination against vegans denies them the ability to live in recognition of the rights of non-human animals and thereby supports and perpetuates injustice against other animals. By working to defend and promote the rights of vegans well can use the law to ensure that vegans are able to live in accordance with the rights of other animals. Vegan rights are therefore important to vegans, to ensure that we are able to live according to our fundamental conviction, but they are also very important tools in our work to promote the rights of other animals.
The book provides detail about our rights as well as sample letters to help vegans write to schools, employers, hospitals, etc explaining the protections we have and calling for better provision.
The book is available in our support store in hard copy and e-book format. If anyone is not in a position to make the suggested donation (which will be used to cover print costs and then to develop the book for future editions - the authors do not take any payment) please email us as we want the book to be accessible to all: Vegan Rights in the UK
If you order the print copy we’ll also send you an e-book version so that you have it to copy and paste from.
Vegans live according to the moral conviction that it is wrong to use and kill non-human animals unnecessarily. It is that conviction or fundamental belief that gives us protections under international, European and UK law. This means that when we talk about vegan rights we are, of necessity, talking about the rights of other animals. This creates unusual and potentially very fruitful opportunities for vegan advocacy, where other animals are the focus and the misconception that veganism is nothing more than a dietary choice or lifestyle has no space.
Every discussion we have about the rights of vegans, whether with our government, hospitals, schools or universities will involve explaining that what is protected is our right to live according to our moral conviction that it is wrong to subjugate, exploit and kill non-human animals unnecessarily. That will often lead to a discussion about the subjugation, exploitation and killing of other animals, and about the fact that it is all unnecessary. That discussion will help the state entity to understand what vegans need and why we have protections, but it may well also result in the individual state representatives reconsidering their own relationship with non-human animals.
That veganism is the way in which we recognise and respect the rights of others sets it apart from other social justice movements. It is not we vegans who are used and killed because of our veganism, it is those whose rights we recognise by living vegan. It is they who are subjugated, exploited and killed in their billions and trillions year on year. It is they who are denied the basic right not to be treated as a commodity and the right to live.
While vegans do experience discrimination and harassment, and there are stark examples of this highlighted by the recent GVS survey, there is no equivalence between such incidents of discrimination and harassment and the dreadful systematic, state-sponsored rights violations inflicted upon groups of human beings based on immutable characteristics such as race, sex and sexual orientation. The work we do to oppose the commodification and slaughter of non-human animals should always be done in a way that also respects the rights of other humans, avoiding and challenging, for example, racism, sexism, classism and discrimination in all its forms. Many vegan animal rights advocates are of course also participants in other, related, struggles for justice.
We should take care in using vegan rights. For example, there may be a temptation to refer to our right to freedom from harassment and discrimination when vegans are denigrated on television. While we recognise that this can be hurtful for vegans and that this can feed a culture in which it is seen as acceptable to bully or harass vegans in the workplace etc, we should be careful to explain our rights in terms that clearly put the focus on other animals. The denigration of vegans / veganism is a problem because it fails to acknowledge that vegans are people who have rejected the subjugation and exploitation of other animals. If we frame the complaint in terms of how we feel as vegans we lose the focus on other animals. We have to remember that it’s not about us. That is not to disregard our feelings altogether, but to encourage us all to constantly come back to the rights of other animals in recognition of which we live.