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A survey undertaken by a Scottish vegan organization has highlighted the discrimination experienced by vegans in public spaces.
The survey, by Go Vegan Scotland, found that vegans are being discriminated against in Scottish hospitals, schools, universities and local authorities in contravention of their rights under UK and European law.
According to the organization, this discrimination is jeopardising vegans’ health and education.
Go Vegan Scotland’s report says: “In 2017 we carried out an online survey to find out what issues Scotland-based vegans were facing, in terms of their ability to live vegan when dependent upon the state/Government.
“This arises when we are in hospital, school, prison, care homes and other contexts.
“The responses from some 480 Scotland-based vegans highlighted a lack of understanding of the moral conviction that vegans live by, what it means to be vegan in terms of avoidance of all forms of animal exploitation and killing, and how vegan convictions should be taken into account by our state entities.”
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A spokesperson for Go Vegan Scotland told PBN: “I am not surprised by the results, as I was aware of the general position through anecdotal information from fellow vegans.
“However, the extent of the issue and some of the individual experiences of misunderstanding, bullying and lack of provision, putting health at risk and undermining education, is very concerning.
“The situation is one that should be taken seriously by our Government.”
Some of the more worrying allegations came from vegans experiences in hospitals.
Among the claims cited were patients suffering from eating disorders being denied access to vegan food and/or being force-fed animal products, and patients going without food for days or discharging themselves early as a result of a lack of vegan food.
Some said they were subjected to derogatory comments, or inaccurate nutritional information, from medical professionals.
There were issues faced by students, pupils, and their parents in educational establishments.
Some cited children missing out on free meals because of the lack of vegan options.
In addition, there were reports of children and other students being forced to participate in unnecessary experiments on animals and being pressured to attend school trips to establishments they consider unethical, such as zoos.
Some teaching staff were accused of mocking the ethical choice of children and students, and employing bias in teaching by promoting the use and killing of animals.
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Vegans who are state employees reported some worrying situations in the workplace, lack of vegan food options in canteens and at meetings, and no provision for vegans in the military or police, including the refusal to provide animal-free workwear.
Vegans in prison or police custody reported bullying by police.
In other situations, there was found to be a lack of vegan options on jury duty and court premises, and unemployed vegans were required to apply for jobs in butchers and abattoirs.
Go Vegan Scotland’s spokesperson told PBN they undertook the survey – and shared the results – to ‘bring to the fore the moral conviction that is at the heart of veganism’.
They added: “There is a general misconception that veganism is about food, or dietary restriction, when in fact veganism is not ‘about’ food at all.
“Vegans are people who realised at some point in their lives that other animals are sentient beings, just like us, and so consider it wrong to use them as commodities, unnecessarily bringing them into existence in order that we can take things from them and then kill them.
“Vegans are morally opposed to the commodification of other animals and so live their lives, in so far as they possibly can, avoiding any involvement in the use and killing of animals.
“Once that is understood I would hope that most people would respect our moral conviction and see the need to provide for us, to ensure that we can live according to our fundamental conviction.”
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Go Vegan Scotland is calling upon the Government to ensure good vegan options are available in all state entities (hospitals, schools, prisons etc), to educate public sector workers on the meaning of veganism and its legal status, and to promote plant-based nutrition education for medical professionals and in schools.
The spokesperson said: “We want the Government to support alternatives to animal testing in medical products and the use of non-animal ingredients .
“We have also sent our report to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in Scotland, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of relevant international and European law.”
They added: “What our government and state entities may not appreciate, or appreciate fully, is that veganism is a protected conviction under United Kingdom and European law, and has the same legal status as religious beliefs.
“That is not to say that veganism is like a religion (it is not), but rather that we have as a society recognised the importance of protecting people’s right to hold and live according to fundamental convictions to the same extent as we respect their right to hold and live according to religious beliefs.”
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has said it will consider the findings, and ‘add them to their evidence base of equality issues’.