Veganism as potential religion in South Africa - legal debate

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DaedalusZA
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Veganism as potential religion in South Africa - legal debate

Post by DaedalusZA » Fri Oct 04, 2019 4:51 am

Hi all,

A legal scholar in South Africa was due to discuss the eligibility of veganism becoming a religion at an Animal Conference that took place at my alma mata (University of Cape Town). He cancelled at the last moment so I was unable to discuss the topic with him in person and he has not responded or acknowledged receipt. I've cited his abstract as well as the email I sent to him prior to the conference. I see discussions on this forum of whether veganism constitutes a religion, but thought it would be beneficial to open up the topic from a strictly legal aspect. I don't believe there is any quarrel involved...my position is simply one of concern when any human movement moves towards co-opting non-human animal issues, no matter how well intentioned.

Abstract:
Dr Arthur van Coller

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Ethical Vegan

The beliefs and choices of ethical vegans are currently not protected in the workplace and employers are not obliged to accommodate vegan beliefs and principles. It is, however, clear that vegans are discriminated against on a daily basis and this has become of significant concern in the workplace. The question to be analysed is whether vegans qualify for protection against unfair discrimination on a listed (religion, belief or conscience) or non-listed ground as provided for in section 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and related legislation (Promotion of Equality and Prevention of unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000, the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 and s187(1)(f) of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995). It may be argued that veganism should qualify as a religious belief and vegans may thus qualify for protection against discrimination on that basis but whether this is prudent remains to be determined. Such protection would compel employers to reasonably accommodate the beliefs and choices of vegan employees. The determination of weather discrimination against vegans in the workplace may be classified under a specified or non-specified ground will, however, only be relevant with regards to the duty to prove whether discrimination should be presumed. The ultimate test in unfair discrimination cases was developed by the Constitutional Court judgment in Harksen v Lane No 1997 (11) BCLR 1489. This test required a court to consider whether the differentiation, if any, amounts to discrimination, weather the discrimination is unfair and lastly whether the discrimination is justifiable in term of the limitations clause (section 36) of the Constitution? Differentiation alone will, in most cases, not amount to discrimination as unfairness is the trigger for an actionable complaint of discrimination.

Email response:
"Hello Dr van Coller,

I've read your abstract for the upcoming vegan conference at UCT.

I realise that the abstract discusses whether, legally, "ethical" veganism can be defined as a religion. However, I'm more concerned about the potential effects on non-human animals if a higher Court were to make such a judgment - and thus, create a precedent. More specifically, the decision may have the unintended consequence of deterring both theists and atheists alike from adopting "ethical" veganism. Accordingly, there would be a decrease in suffering reduction/animal protection, contrary to the very goal of "ethical" veganism. It may offer benefits to humans (vegans), but might harm animals in the animal agriculture industry. We consider "ethical" veganism to be altruistic as it reduces harm to animals at the cost of harming and/or reducing the pleasure of a vegan. If granting "ethical" veganism religious protection reduces the effectiveness of animal protection, then would it not be decreasing the ethical value of "ethical" veganism? Thus, one could argue that in order for "ethical" veganism to remain ethical, it should forfeit the legal protection of vegans?

The above is premised on the notion that granting it religious status would deter non-vegans. However, in the absence of empirical data to either confirm or deny, shouldn't we apply the precautionary rule?

I hope that there is time to discuss this at the conference.

Kind regards,"

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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu Oct 10, 2019 1:05 am

Wow, interesting. Did not know this was being talked about.

Because veganism clearly does not have a position on the supernatural and it doesn't preclude belief or lack thereof in any other actual religion, it would seem not to qualify by any reasonable definition.
I could see the drive if you wanted protections to shoehorn it in... but why push for religious recognition at all if belief or conscience are options? Or do those not get protection?

This is much like the debate about calling gender dysphoria a mental illness for transexuals.
Calling it so may get the treatment covered by insurance, but it also has social implications.

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DaedalusZA
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Post by DaedalusZA » Thu Oct 10, 2019 5:17 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 1:05 am
This is much like the debate about calling gender dysphoria a mental illness for transexuals.
Calling it so may get the treatment covered by insurance, but it also has social implications.
I'd like to hear more on that. Is that being discussed somewhere on this forum? Society has become fiercely polarised and people spend all their time online in echo chambers, it's become impossible to find a space that promotes rational debate.

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Jebus
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Post by Jebus » Thu Oct 10, 2019 6:50 pm

DaedalusZA wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 5:17 pm
it's become impossible to find a space that promotes rational debate.
This forum is the closest place I know to rational debate. There are idiots here too, but most threads seem to conclude rationally.
How to become vegan in 4.5 hours:
1.Watch Forks over Knives (Health)
2.Watch Cowspiracy (Environment)
3. Watch Earthlings (Ethics)
Congratulations, unless you are a complete idiot you are now a vegan.

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brimstoneSalad
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Fri Oct 11, 2019 4:02 pm

@DaedalusZA It's a pretty old topic, from a few years ago when the SJW vs anti-SJW stuff was really going strong.
It has probably been discussed in a couple threads but I'm sorry that I don't have links on hand.

Porphyry
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Post by Porphyry » Sat Oct 12, 2019 12:52 pm

It depends on how you view religion. Westerners, naturally, tend to take their dominant religious traditions as normative for what 'religion' means; and that usually means, narrowly, Christianity. But it is possible to view Confucianism as a religion, and Confucianism has very little to say about standard religious topics. It is primarily an ethical system, though it does have metaphysical views grounded in the Chinese cultural context. But my point is that if one grants that a primarily ethical tradition, like Confucianism, is a religion, then I think you could make a case for veganism as a religion along the same lines.

Another example would be Shinto, the native religious tradition of Japan. It has no holy scriptures and no list of ethical proscriptions. But it does have a sense of ritualized obligations. I think veganism could also be understood as a type of ritualized obligation.

The largest vegetarian and vegan communities in the world are religious: this includes Jains, Seventh Day Adventists, some forms of Monastic Buddhism and Taoism. And the oldest vegetarian and vegan traditions are similarly religious in nature. It is only very recently (the last 10 to 20 years) that the idea of a secular, non-religious, approach to these kinds of diets has been attempted. I'm not convinced that the attempt has been successful, but it might work out over time. Still, the endurance of religiously based vegetarian and vegan diets is, I think, something that the modern vegan movement should look at and, possibly, adopt as part of their approach.

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