The Vegan Society calls for government’s Human Rights reform proposals to be be abandonned
The Vegan Society today called for the government’s reform proposals to the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1988), that would undermine or severely weaken legislation that currently protects the rights and beliefs of vegans, to be abandoned. The reform proposals, which are at the review and consultation stage, would remove power from individuals, human rights campaigners and, ultimately, the courts.
The consultation proposes the implementation of a ‘review stage’ for human rights-related legal action – essentially that proposed cases need the permission of the government to be presented to the courts. The government is also seeking to avoid the imposition of positive obligations upon public authorities. The society has issued a full statement that can be found here.
A primary concern is the proposal that UK courts will not need to follow the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights who recognised in 1993 that veganism was a protected belief under “the human right to freedom of thought conscience and religion”. The proposed changes would allow for UK courts to be able to draw on various examples from other countries where veganism is not fully protected, weakening the position of vegans in the UK.
The proposed reform would also require vegans to prove they have suffered a ‘significant disadvantage’ for any Human Rights claims to go ahead; known as a ‘permission stage’. This is particularly worrying given that the idea of vegans having the protection of law has been described as ‘nonsense’ by some UK parliamentarians, and vegans have also been targeted under counterterrorism measures in the past.
Dr Jeanette Rowley, Rights and Advocacy Manager at The Vegan Society, explains further: “The European Court of Human Rights recognises that being provided with a diet that aligns with ethical convictions is a serious matter under the human right to freedom of conscience. My worry is that a UK ‘permission stage’, along with courts not being required to look to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights would result in cases presented by vegans being dismissed as trivial or spurious.”
The reform proposals also intend to remove the current obligation on public authorities to provide vegan food, vegan uniform items where available and give due regard to the needs of vegans in schools and hospitals. Organisations working to advance vegan rights, such as The Vegan Society, continue to rely heavily on this positive obligation to protect the rights of vegans.
The Vegan Society strongly believes that there is no evidence that reforms are required, however, there is overwhelming widespread evidence that people in the UK would benefit from information and guidance about their rights and how to claim them. In the absence of information and education, most vegans do not know they are protected by human rights law, and do not know how to claim their fundamental right to live according to their ethical convictions.
The consultation closes on 8 March at 11.59pm and the society is urging supporters to submit a response. A template letter is available on The Vegan Society’s website.