Vegans May Be Exempt from Compulsory Vaccines, Law Firm Claims

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaigner Ashley Fruno holds a sign encouraging people to go vegan whilst painted as Mother Earth at a intersection in Bangkok on April 21, 2016. PETA are promoting a plant-based diet in an effort to combat climate change and the depletion of …
LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images

Ethical vegans may be exempt from being forced by their employers to be vaccinated because their lifestyle beliefs are protected by law, a legal firm has claimed.

Last year, a judge presiding over an employment tribunal ruled that ethical veganism — where a vegan avoids all animals products, products that used animals in testing, or services associated with animal exploitation — was a “philosophical belief”, making it a protected characteristic like race, religion, or sexuality, with its adherents covered under the Equality Act 2010.

Referencing the case, a spokesman from law firm Lewis Silkin said, according to The Telegraph: “Some ethical vegans may disagree with vaccinations on the basis that they will inevitably have been tested on animals. Ethical veganism has previously been found by an [employment tribunal] to amount to a belief, capable of being protected.”

The remarks come weeks after the government passed legislation to force all care home staff to be vaccinated against the Chinese coronavirus. Silkie Carlo, the director of the privacy and civil liberties pressure group Big Brother Watch, warned that the passing of the law could embolden employers to make similar demands, leaving “millions” of employers to face a choice between a jab and their job.

Some employers have been considering introducing mandatory vaccines for several months, including the anti-Brexit Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers, who vowed in January to impose a “no vaccine, no job” rule.

Mr Mullins is not alone, however, according to a recent poll by the British Chambers of Commerce of large businesses employing more than 50 people.

Around one-third of large businesses said they were considering introducing vaccine demands, with eight per cent saying they would “likely” do so in the future. Nearly one in ten (nine per cent) said they already had required employees to prove their vaccination status.

A senior figure in the British government appeared to give his tacit approval for employers to demand mandatory vaccination of staff. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Thursday: “We want everyone to be double-jabbed.”

“I can understand why employers think that that would be a smart policy or approach to encourage, whether or not there should be hard and fast legal rules I think we need to look at carefully. But our message overwhelmingly is get the jab,” he said.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps was forced to confirm on Friday that the government would not be mandating vaccines in order for people to return to work, but again expressed that it was a “good idea” and some employers may decide to do so.

“We are not going to make that legislation, that every adult has to be double vaccinated before they go back to the office, but yes it is a good idea and yes some companies will require it,” Mr Shapps said.

The Telegraph notes that ethical vegans could take their employers to court if they claim they were forced to resign if faced with an order to be vaccinated.

There are some 500,000 vegans in the United Kingdom, and around 100 have already contacted the Vegan Society over concerns they could be asked to be vaccinated at work.

However, others may challenge company policies on vaccination included so-called “anti-vaxxers” on the grounds that their beliefs should be protected in the same way that ethical vegans’ philosophies are.

Solicitor Clare Chappell from Peacock & Co noted that “somebody at some point who is an anti-vaxxer is going to bring a claim that an anti-vax belief is a philosophical belief.

“I think it’s going to throw a lot of interesting developments into discrimination law over the coming months and years.”

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