Is it illegal to give vegan meat?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is it illegal to give vegan meat?” and will discuss some laws for vegan rights.

Is it illegal to give vegan meat?

Yes, it is illegal to give vegan meat. The chef and restaurant owner can be sued and their license can be canceled if they serve the vegan with meat.

However, studies have found that vegans and vegetarians are subjected to attitudes which are equivalent or more negative than common prejudice target groups, including significantly more negatively than black people, and overall vegans were viewed more negatively than vegetarians. In January 2020, an Employment Tribunal in England held ethical veganism to be a philosophical belief and therefore a protected characteristic pursuant to the Equality Act 2010. As such, ethical vegans may gain protection from discriminatory treatment. In other countries, similar legislation protects vegans against prejudice (1).

International Laws

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes our the rights of a person as vegans (The Declaration). The Declaration’s Articles are enforceable by two international treaties. ICCPR and ICESCR are the treaties concerned (ICESCR). They reaffirm our rights and lay forth our responsibilities to other countries.

Rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are vegan

The article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”. Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) also enshrines the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and apply to ‘the “major” or “ancient” world religions’, ‘new or relatively new religions’ and ‘various coherent and sincerely-held philosophical convictions’ (1). Therefore, as this legislation accepts veganism as being a philosophical conviction and a belief, even not being designed as a religion, it is under the protection of law. 

In the United States, freedom of religion is established by the First Amendment of the Constitution stating that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’. However, whether veganism or vegetarianism are protected in the United States remains debatable. In contrast to the Equality Act 2010, Title VII only refers to ‘religion’, not ‘religion and belief’. In contrast to the United States Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Canadian Charter) enshrines ‘conscience and religion’ as well as ‘thought, belief, opinion and expression’ as fundamental freedoms (1). 

The following points summarize the legislation on which the protection of the rights of vegans is based:  

·         Article 1 of the Declaration states that vegans have the same rights and dignity as non-vegetarians.

·         According to Article 7 of the Declaration, vegans are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination.

·         Animal rights advocates may educate and exercise their beliefs following Article 18 of the Constitution. For vegans, this is a must-read piece. Human rights legislation protects those who conduct their lives with a strong sense of conviction. Religious or non-religious views might qualify as human rights qualifying beliefs.

·         Vegans have the right to social and cultural rights that are essential to their dignity and freedom of growth.

·         Food, medical care, and social services are all included in Article 25’s definition of a vegan’s quality of living.

·         Under Article 26, vegans are entitled to an education in veganism.

·         In accordance with Article 28, vegans are entitled to a social order in which their rights as vegans are acknowledged and protected.

As stated in Article 29 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a law can limit the right of vegans to exercise their rights and freedoms only if they violate the rights and freedoms of others; or if they compromise the moral code, the public order, or the aims of a democratic society in the pursuit of their vegan rights.

For countries to express their interpretations of human rights covenants, they are permitted to make reservations. When it comes to Article 18, certain countries would assert that any such provision should be interpreted following Islamic Shariah.

 Traditional religious traditions in other countries may limit the interpretation of this Article. The Article 18 right to freedom of belief in other countries is interpreted extremely broadly and protects both religious and secular views. Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) specifically declares that veganism is covered under human rights legislation in the United Kingdom (UK). According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Article 18’s meaning is broadened by a 1993 European Court of Human Rights judgment on vegetarianism, where the EHRC’s view was based.

Vegan rights under the ICCPR

·         Rights under Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provide people self-determination and social and cultural development.

·         Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandates that a state shall protect all human rights without exception.

·         A violation of our rights under Article 2 (a) requires the state to do everything it is required to protect our interests.

·         Following Article 18, we have the right to have a vegan belief and to teach and practice it. The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) specifically declares that no one should be compelled into a belief they do not want to believe. When we consider the power of the non-vegan society we are born into, this is extremely relevant. It raises fundamental issues regarding the coercive nature of being born into a non-vegan culture. This article also mandates that contracting governments guarantee that children be educated following their parents’ choices and beliefs.

The movement to eradicate discrimination on the grounds of religion and belief is further re-enforced through the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. Whilst Article 1(1) of the aforementioned Declaration re-iterates the language of ‘thought, conscience and religion’, Article 1(2) states, ‘No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice (1).

·         Under Article 26 of the United States Charter, member nations are obligated to prevent discrimination against vegans and to ensure their equal treatment under the law.

·         Under Article 27 of the Constitution, minorities shall be able to exercise and enjoy their culture.

·         International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

·         Our rights as vegans are guaranteed by member states under Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

·         Article 6 guarantees us the freedom to work where we choose.

·         Article 10 of the UN Charter mandates that member countries take particular steps to safeguard children’s morality and health.

·         We have a right to expect other countries to respect our beliefs in the moral education of our children under Article 13.

However, in some Courts of the United States, veganism was not recognized as a religion and, because the First Amendment of the Constitution states that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’, and does not include ‘beliefs’ and ‘philosophy’ or ‘way of life’, vegan individuals could not have their rights guaranteed. As such, in these cases, the Court held that veganism was not a religious creed but a personal philosophy and lacked the three indicia of a religion. Unlike a religion the court found that veganism was not ‘comprehensive in nature; it consists of a belief-system as opposed to an isolated teaching’. Ethical veganism also did not address ‘fundamental or ultimate questions’. However, in some cases, the religious convictions of vegans were recognized, when argued that veganism held a place in his life that was akin to religion (2). 

Laws such as the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights seem to be clear. Cases that are brought to court typically have far more content than first expected. Even though veganism may be considered a qualifying belief under human rights law, the government of a country may be permitted to interfere with the practice of veganism under certain situations. Veganism, however, may only be limited by legislation to safeguard public safety, order, health or morality, or the basic rights and freedoms of other people.


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is it illegal to give vegan meat?” and discussed some laws for vegan rights.


  1. McKeown, Paul, and Rachel Ann Dunn. A ‘life-style choice’or a philosophical belief?: the argument for veganism and vegetarianism to be a protected philosophical belief and the position in england and wales. Liverp Law Rev, 2021, 42, 207-241.
  2. Offer, Kate, and Renae Barker. Should ethical vegans have a beef with the definition of religion?. Victoria UL & Just. J., 2019, 9, 17.

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