The UK has voted to leave the EU. It remains to be seen what changes will be made to UK law. What is for sure though is that the UK will not be obligated under the European Convention on Human Rights or the European Directives regarding rights and equality that have resulted in positive conditions for the vegan community. Specifically, Brexit may mean that the UK scraps the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and its statutory duty to inform wider society about the importance of rights for people with “philosophical beliefs” such as veganism. On the other hand, in line with the UK’s very strong historical liberal tradition, it may be that it keeps and develops these positive developments in law and policy.
What vegans can be reassured by, however, is that the human rights and equality developments that have emerged from the EU, are a result of broader international requirements to implement the principles of the International Bill of Rights. Even though the UK will leave the EU (but may still be obligated under the Convention, if it secures trade agreements for example), it still has to comply with international law.
International law explicitly states the primacy of the human right to freedom of conscience and that it concerns any non-religious beliefs that are based on deep non-religious convictions. This right also explicitly states that governments must not force people to assimilate into belief systems they did not choose and that practices and policies have to be developed that allow people to live according to their ethical orientation.
As such, the UK still has a duty to vegans, to allow veganism to flourish by ensuring that public authorities do not develop practices and policies that require vegans to assimilate into a dominant prejudicial system of animal exploitation. For example, under international law, parents still have the right raise their children as vegans and vegan food should still be made available in state schools, hospitals, care homes and prisons.
What will be important, moving forward, is that vegans continue to promote veganism as a minority culture that requires legal and political consideration. In this regard, Jeanette Rowley, one of our UK representatives, has written to Michael Gove, the UK Secretary for Justice and other relevant parties, for a response to questions about the implications of Brexit, for vegans in the UK.
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