Switzerland is being taken to court after failing to provide appropriate vegan meals for an animal rights activist in prison.
The unnamed male activist was serving time in a facility in Geneva after breaking into and damaging a number of slaughterhouses, butchers, and restaurants.
After a few days of incarceration, he complained to prison authorities that he wasn’t being provided with sustainable plant-based meals. It is thought that he was only able to eat burger buns, rice, and side salads.
He also refused to take a B12 supplement until the prison supplied one of plant-based origin. B12 deficiency can lead to nervous system damage, and it is vital that vegans get the recommended dose either via supplementation or fortified food.
The activist was later diagnosed by a prison doctor as suffering from iron deficiency, constipation, and hemorrhoids.
According to the Guardian, the prison rejected a written request for him to be provided with appropriate vegan meals. The facility responded by saying that measures had already been put in place for the activist to eat a diet as close as possible to his beliefs.
In June 2020, an appeal was deemed inadmissible by Switzerland’s federal court. The prisoner’s lawyer then took the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR consists of 46 judges from a number of countries – including the UK, Norway, and Turkey – which signed the European Convention of Human Rights.
Another vegan who was refused appropriate meals while in a psychiatric ward in a hospital also joined the appeal.
The Strasbourg court has now admitted the appeal. Notably, it rejects around 95 percent of appeals, indicating a major turning point in veganism being recognized as a protected belief.
The court has asked the Swiss state to consider whether the prison had violated article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
Veganism is seeing a surge in popularity in Switzerland. It’s thought that around four percent of the population now follow the lifestyle.
In June of this year, an independent think-tank in the country predicted that Switzerland would be entirely meat-free by 2050.
Veganism as a protected characteristic
This isn’t the first time someone has launched a legal case on the grounds of their veganism.
In the UK in 2020, an employment tribunal ruled that veganism was a philosophical belief protected by law against discrimination.
The decision came after a vegan named Jordi Casamitjana claimed he was unfairly fired by an animal welfare organization — League Against Cruel Sports — after he raised concerns that its pension fund invested in companies linked to animal testing.