A lower court in the city of Hjorring, Denmark, has ruled that veganism is a protected belief under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The case was brought by the Vegetarian Society of Denmark on behalf of a small child and her parents. The child had been denied the right to plant-based meals at her kindergarten, and the municipality running the institution had also refused to allow her to bring a packed lunch.
In a “milestone win”, the court ruled that the child and her parents had been discriminated against, as they were prevented from practicing their way of living. It acknowledged that vegans have the right not to be “treated worse than people without vegan convictions who are in a similar or comparable situation”.
Following the ruling, the family has been granted around €1500 in compensation, and the municipality will have to pay their legal expenses. Since other European countries must also follow the European Court of Human Rights, the Vegetarian Society of Denmark hopes the ruling could be helpful for vegans in other nations.
Veganism and the law
The case follows another landmark ruling at an employment tribunal in the UK in 2020. Jordi Casamitjana said he had been dismissed from his job at The League Against Cruel Sports after raising concerns about the investment of his pension funds in companies that test on animals. A judge ruled in his favour, stating that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and is therefore protected by law under the Equality Act 2010.
The Vegetarian Society of Denmark is now set to bring forth another case regarding a woman who was denied a vegan meal in hospital during her pregnancy, and told to bring a packed lunch for her childbirth. The case will take place on April 25, with the ruling expected the following month.
Last April, a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was brought forth calling for legislation to explicitly require vegan alternatives to be available in private and public spaces selling food and drinks in Europe. If the ECI receives over a million signatures from at least seven member states by April 5 2024, the European Commission will have to respond.
“From the perspective of being able to live a daily life as a vegan or vegetarian, the access to vegan meals in public sector institutions – such as kindergartens, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. – has for years been a challenge,” said Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl, Secretary-General of the Vegetarian Society of Denmark. “While some Danish hospitals or kindergartens prepare excellent vegan food, other places don’t offer it at all. Obviously, in many public institutions bringing your own packed lunch is not an option, e.g. most situations in hospitals, psychiatric treatment, nursing homes, etc. Our hope therefore is that this verdict will influence the availability of vegan options in other public institutions.”