http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/p ... 052580.ece
The Sunday Times. 7 March 2010.
Don’t mock my lentils: vegans to get discrimination rights.
Marie Woolf, Whitehall Editor
VEGANS and teetotallers are to be given the same protection
against discrimination as religious groups, under legislation
championed by Harriet Harman, the equalities minister.
Members of cults and “new religions” such as Scientology,
whose supporters include the film stars Tom Cruise and John
Travolta, would also be offered protection, as would atheists.
A code of practice explaining the legal implications of the
equality bill states that religions need not be mainstream or
well known for their adherents to gain protection. “A belief
need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but must
affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world.”
The code, drawn up by the Equality and Human Rights
Commission, singles out vegans, who do not eat any animal
products or wear leather, as meriting protection from
religious discrimination. It says: “A person who is a vegan
chooses not to use or consume animal products of any kind.
That person eschews the exploitation of animals for food,
clothing, accessories or any other purpose and does so out of
an ethical commitment to animal welfare.”
A spokesman from the commission explained: “This is about
someone for whom being vegan or vegetarian is central to who
they are. This is not something ‘thought up by the
commission’. Parliament makes the law, the courts interpret it
and the commission offers factual and proportionate guidance
to organisations where necessary. We are providing guidance on
the implications of the equality bill.”
The legislation also covers “any religious belief or
philosophical belief” and even “a lack of belief”.
Philosophical beliefs to be protected could include humanism
and pacifism, but a spokesman for Harman said scientific or
political beliefs such as Marxism and fascism would not be
covered. The commission added that the recently founded
International Church of Jediism, with 500,000 followers
worldwide who base their philosophy on the Star Wars films,
would not qualify. Beliefs had to be heartfelt.
The watchdog also warns that advertisements giving
preferential treatment to men or women could be illegal. This
could mean the end of “ladies’ nights” at clubs, when women
receive cut-price drinks or free entrance but men pay full
price. People for whom abstention from alcohol was a way of
life would also be protected. Conversely, the bill would make
it unlawful for a shopkeeper to refuse to sell cigarettes to a
woman because she was pregnant.
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