The Telegraph recently published an article about how UK workplace vaccination requirements for employees may legally exempt vegans due to their ethical beliefs. The controversial topic has attracted quite a bit of press and attention. For the record, we believe in science as strongly as we believe in improving the world for animals - and humans.
We submitted a Letter to the Editor to The Telegraph, which they refused to publish. Here is what we sent them:
Our letter to the editor (with PDF below):
In its July 29 article, The Telegraph reported that workplace vaccination requirements for employees may need to exempt vegans due to their ethical beliefs. This comes after the 2020 determination from Judge Robin Postle that ethical veganism satisfied the criteria for philosophical beliefs granted protection under the Equality Act 2010.
We do not take issue with last year's tribunal decision; as ethical vegans for many years, we fully agree with the recognition of veganism as a legitimate philosophical belief worthy of protection. However, the interpretation of veganism that requires exclusion of medicine, medical care, vaccinations, etc. due to the scientific reliance on animal testing is the problem. Potentially well-meaning but ill-informed vegans who think that they can't or shouldn't take the vaccine because it was tested on animals do not understand what veganism is, or what intersectional animal advocacy looks like.
Veganism has always been about doing the best you can within reason. Refusing medicine because it contains non-vegan ingredients or because it was tested on animals is not a reasonable act. Indeed, the Vegan Society's definition of what it means to be vegan has for decades included an exception for medicine and medical treatment, because they knew back then that you cannot advocate well for animals if you are not well yourself. And, unlike too many of us today, they knew that our advocacy for animals means nothing if we are not also caring for our fellow human. Your ethical beliefs are not convincing or upstanding of whatever unattainable height of morality you may be seeking if you refuse to help society at large.
If you think that vegan moral purity requires forgoing a vaccination that could not only save your life but could prevent you from taking someone else's life, then your definition of veganism is one we don't recognise. If your refusal to support animal testing comes with the price of potentially causing death of other humans, then you are not a ‘good vegan’, but a bad person. Veganism is not a free pass that gets us out of our responsibilities as members of society. Some ludicrous ideal of vegan purity that values itself above protecting others from a deadly virus is nowhere near what it means to live ethically.
All of us vegans want a vegan world. But we are never going to see one in reality if we make poor decisions like this. We cannot expect other people to listen to us if we are unreasonable. And we definitely cannot expect other people to one day sign onto a social contract that better respects animals if we are refusing to respect our existing social contract with each other.
Please everyone ....