The EU debate from a vegan perspective

The EU debate from a vegan perspective

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Veganism gets everywhere, as does talk about the EU referendum.

“I’ve heard enough about the EU”, screams everybody as the claims and counter-claims get wilder by the day. I just want to lay bare a kale cruncher’s perspective on the whole thing.

We have the right to practise veganism under EU legislation. Oh yes, the boringly titled The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union – Article 10 states that we have the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. I should hope so too. But it is nice to know that governments can’t ban veganism – however ludicrous that may be. Plus, under Article 21, discrimination against us is banned. But it would be mean to stop a vegan from getting on a bus because they didn’t eat dead animals. Although, the British Press still expressed outraged that a vegan became the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – was this not discrimination?

Article 9 under the European Convention of Human Rights also protects vegan rights – double bonus. It means interfering with our beliefs is frowned upon. It also means that your beliefs should be provided for where necessary. If you’re a policeman, you have a right to be allowed to wear vegan shoes as part of your uniform – the same applies if you need safety gear for work. And if food is part of the deal at work, then they need to provide you with a vegan option. It’s your right.

Where the EU falls down in the eyes of many vegans is the huge amount of cash it throws towards those breeding animals for food. Fifty billion euros of EU subsidies go towards livestock farming and fisheries. The Animal Welfare Party is campaigning to get this money redirected to plant-based agriculture. Personally, I doubt the EU’s moral sat nav will direct it around the powerful farming lobby.

Farm animals do have five basic freedoms under the 1998 Council Directive 98/58/EC. They are Freedom from hunger and thirst; Freedom from discomfort; Freedom from pain, injury and disease; Freedom to express normal behaviour and Freedom from fear and distress.

Although the freedom to not get eaten doesn’t seem to be in there. That’s a shame really, because animals were recognised as sentient beings under the Lisbon Treaty of 2009.

Last year, MEPs voted to end subsidising Spanish bullfighting. Under the Common Agricultural Policy, £100 million of EU cash is going to Spanish farmers who breed bulls for fighting. Quite rightly, the British Press was outraged that UK taxpayers were funding this spectacle. Sadly, the council of the EU didn’t include the amendment to the policy in the 2016 agreement, so the subsidies will continue for another year at least. But there’s hope that it will end after that. If we leave the EU then we cannot fight to oppose these subsidies, but if we stay, our money forms part of them!

Testing on animals from cosmetic purposes is banned in the EU and, last year, a petition with1.1 million signature was presented to the European Commission with the hope of banning testing on animals in medical laboratories. The EU said it is too early to do that but is looking to phase out these tests – so more positive rhetoric.

So there you have it, a few points to ponder upon while looking upon the debate from a different perspective.


  1. A good summary. That vegan shadow farming minister, Kerry McCarthy MP, is giving a talk on “What’s the EU Done for Animals?” at VegFestUK Bristol. As she’s actively campaign to remain, one assumes her tallly will be positive.

    The other point to ponder is that as we are an international movement, we benefit from the free movement of people. For example, I had a lovely meal at an Italian vegan food bus that’s near my flat; a business set up by Italians who came here under those free movement rules.

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