A vegan student has won a discrimination case after she was told to study a unit on farming ‘or fail’.
18-year-old Fiji Willetts is from Downend in Bristol. She’s currently studying for a BTEC National Extended Diploma in Animal Management at South Gloucestershire college.
According to the college’s prospectus, the course is great for people ‘who love animals’ and are ‘passionate about conservation’.
However, after enrolling, Willetts found she had to take, and pass, a module on Farm Husbandry. This branch of agriculture focuses on raising animals for meat, fiber, milk, eggs, or other products.
It includes day-to-day care, selective breeding and the raising of livestock for the purpose of gaining the ‘best quality meats, and most milk and eggs from those animals’.
Students were also expected to attend working farms to help the farmers. A visit to a slaughterhouse was also discussed.
Willetts discussed her ethical dilemma with her course tutor but was told she could study an alternative module. Skipping the unit would result in an automatic fail.
Therefore, Willetts contacted Jeanette Rowley, Vegan Rights Advocate at The Vegan Society.
Together, they submitted a formal complaint to the college. It responded stating it was ‘unable to remove unit 19, Farm Livestock Husbandry, from the curriculum or substitute it with another unit’.
Following this, a similar complaint was issued to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) who also disagreed with the discrimination claims.
The case was escalated to the awarding body for non-compliance with equality law which intervened. Now, the college has agreed to provide a more suitable module for her.
‘I love animals’
In a statement sent to Plant Based News, she said: “I couldn’t simply break my way of living purely to pass a course.
“I am vegan because I love animals and so to go against my beliefs and attend a farm where I would be supporting a farmer would be wrong.”
‘A really big win’ for the vegan movement
Rowley added: “This was not only a really big win for Fiji but for the vegan movement in general.
“Vegans in the UK have the protection of human rights and equality law. It’s vital that schools and colleges understand that they’re under a statutory duty to examine how their educational policies and practices might have a negative impact on vegan students.
“They must do everything they can to remove any observed disadvantages faced by vegans.
“I’m delighted Fiji was able to stay at her college and is able to continue working towards her diploma.”