On 10 December we commemorate International Human Rights Day. On this Day in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. This International Human Rights Day we would like to update you on the current state of veganism and vegetarianism, in terms of the UK laws and regulation.
Veganism ‘is increasingly recognised nationally, particularly by the environmental benefits of vegan observance.’
Indeed, the top motivations reported by vegans are concerns about the cruelty of animal farming, slaughter, and animal welfare, followed by environmental and personal health reasons. Animal cruelty, religion, environmental and health reasons were reported as the main reasons for dietary change among vegetarians.
Despite their dedication to animal welfare and environmental protection vegans and vegetarians often lack protection themselves. Protecting vegan or vegetarian beliefs may be particularly challenging for older vegans and vegetarians receiving care. Disabilities and issues with capacity or cognition caused by dementia or other conditions often mean that the person can no longer advocate for their beliefs. The recent Respect for religious and philosophical beliefs while eating in care report revealed a lack of regard and understanding of these beliefs in some care establishments, leading to vegans and vegetarians being given food that goes against their beliefs.
By recognising ethical veganism as a philosophical belief, Casamitjana Costa v The League Against Cruel Sports (2020) gives guidance on how ethical veganism will be treated before the courts. Hence, affirming that local authorities, public bodies and health and care services should recognise ethical veganism as a protected characteristic.
There are more instruments that can help vegans and vegetarians receiving care advocate for their philosophical beliefs. Article 9 of the Human Rights Act protects the right to ‘freedom of thought, conscience and belief’. The right to ‘manifest’ one’s beliefs is also safeguarded under Article 9. Although there are separate care regulations for each part of the UK, the requirement to provide a service that reflects an individual’s needs and preferences, upholds individual’s dignity and respect, and protects them from discrimination are enshrined in all care regulations.
We are mindful that vegans and vegetarians with dementia or memory loss might not be able to self-advocate. To ensure their rights are still protected, we have developed a Memory Care Pledge – five simple yet fundamental steps to guide care homes who strive to provide the best care for vegan and vegetarian residents with dementia, memory loss or other conditions that may lead to disability or fluctuating capacity.
V for Life strives to ensure that older vegans and vegetarians in the UK receive equal treatment to their non-veg*n friends and that their rights to hold and practice veganism or vegetarianism and respected. If you would like to support us, please consider sharing this article or joining the VfL as a Friend or Supporter.
Over 7,000 vegans and vegetarians currently live in care homes across the UK. If you or someone you know faces challenges upholding their vegan or vegetarian beliefs in a care setting, lacks the capacity to self-advocate, or simply needs advice, please reach out on 0161 257 0887 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Casamitjana Costa v The League Against Cruel Sports  Employment Tribunals, 3331129/2018, para.38, available at gov.uk