Court Rules Child Discriminated Against After School Refuses Her Vegan Meals

The school's failure to facilitate plant-based meals amounted to discrimination, the court decided


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A child and her parents in Denmark, who were discriminated against for their vegan beliefs A vegan child in Denmark suffered discrimination when her school failed to provide plant-based meals - Media Credit: Vegetarian Society Denmark

A school that refused to provide plant-based meals for a vegan child discriminated against her freedom of thought and expression, a court in Denmark has ruled.

A lower court in Hjorring ruled that vegans are protected by the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR).

In the ruling, the court stated that vegans have the right to not be “treated worse than people without vegan convictions who are in a similar or comparable situation.”

Veganism protected by law

Hjorring in Denmark, where a child has been discriminated against for her vegan beliefs
Adobe Stock A court ruling in Hjorring could have Europe-wide consequences

The Vegetarian Society of Denmark brought the case on behalf of a young child whose kindergarten had denied her the right to plant-based food.

As well as refusing to provide vegan meals, the kindergarten would not let the girl bring a packed lunch. As such, it discriminated against the family by denying them the chance to practise their way of living.

The ruling drew on Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It starts: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

This right corresponds to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

More cases to come

School meals being served
Adobe Stock Refusing to provide plant-based school meals discriminate against vegans

The court awarded the family a symbolic compensation of around €1,500 ($1,616 USD), plus legal expenses and fees.

However, the impact of the ruling could be much larger. Significantly, it establishes a precedent that vegans cannot suffer discrimination under European human rights law.

“It should be noted that Danish courts have to follow the European Court of Human Rights, as do other European countries,” commented Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl, Secretary-General of the Vegetarian Society of Denmark.

“So, we hope that this win in Denmark, based on a Danish court’s interpretation of the ECHR, might be helpful or encouraging for vegans in other countries.”

In April, another Danish court will hear a separate case brought by the Vegetarian Society of Denmark. This case involves a woman who was denied a plant-based meal at hospital during her pregnancy.

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