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Vegan Firefighter Claims Discrimination in Groundbreaking Case

Animal Justice May 21, 2019

TORONTO – In a novel case, a vegan firefighter is suing his employer for failing to provide him with vegan food while he was deployed out-of-province in a remote location.

Adam Knauff, an 11-year veteran of Ontario’s provincial firefighting force, was sent to Williams Lake, B.C. in 2017 to help tame the forest fires that ravaged the area that summer and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents. For ten days, Mr. Knauff worked long hours in physically demanding conditions, yet faced a severe lack of vegan food in the basecamp where he was stationed.

Mr. Knauff was frequently served meals that contained meat or dairy products, which he cannot eat; meals that were nutritionally inadequate and contained no source of protein; and was sometimes given no food at all. He repeatedly attempted to work with management to improve the situation, but it did not improve. After expressing his frustration that he could not eat, he was sent home, disciplined, and suspended without pay for a period of time.

Mr. Knauff’s application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario raises a novel issue—whether his beliefs as an ethical vegan are protected under Ontario’s Human Rights Code as a form of “creed”. Mr. Knauff has been vegan for over 20 years to avoid causing suffering to animals. The Tribunal has not yet ruled on this important issue, so Mr. Knauff’s case could break new ground. Until recently, creed was thought to be the same as religion. But in 2015, the Ontario Human Rights Commission overhauled its creed policy, stating, “Creed may also include non-religious belief systems that, like religion, substantially influence a person’s identity, worldview and way of life.”

Ethical veganism is a belief system that seeks to avoid harming other animals, and ethical vegans typically choose not to eat animal-based foods like meat, fish dairy, and eggs; or wear clothing made with animal products like fur, leather, wool, and silk.

“I am vegan because I don’t want to harm or kill animals,” said Mr. Knauff. “For over 20 years, this belief system has influenced every aspect of my life, and has made me hyper-aware of the global epidemic of animal abuse, particularly the industrial-scale slaughter of animals for food. I know I can live healthfully and happily on this planet without hurting or killing fellow animals, so I choose not to. My beliefs should be respected, including while I am at work fighting forest fires. Veganism has incredible potential to change the world by promoting compassion and respect for others, and this should be celebrated—not punished, shunned or belittled.”

“More and more people are shunning animal products out of recognition that industrial use of animals causes unconscionable animal suffering,” said lawyer Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “The world is changing, and it’s important for employers to respect the sincerely-held beliefs of vegans. In modern times, secular beliefs like ethical veganism can be just as important to one person as religious beliefs are to another person.”

Mr. Knauff is represented by lawyer Wade Poziomka of Ross & McBride LLP. Animal Justice will request to intervene in Mr. Knauff’s case, to provide the Tribunal with perspective on the growth of ethical veganism, the belief system behind it, and why it is important for ethical vegans to benefit from human rights protections.

Animal Justice was a driving force behind the Commission’s new creed policy, and regularly assists vegans who face discrimination in the workplace, at schools and daycares, and in other circumstances.

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An article by Animal Justice explaining the importance of “creed” for ethical vegans is available here.

For more information, contact:

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
camille@animaljustice.ca

Animal Justice

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Animal Justice Urges Government to Fund Animal Testing Alternatives & Plant-Based Food

Animal Justice August 9, 2018

Animal Justice is urging the federal government to fund innovative industries that save the lives of animals by creating humane, animal-free products. Specifically, Animal Justice is asking the government to invest in developing alternatives to animal testing, and invest in growing Canada’s burgeoning plant-based food sector.

The federal government is currently consulting on 2019 federal budget priorities, focused on economic growth and ensuring Canada’s competitiveness. Animal Justice’s submission, filed last week, suggests opportunities that improve life for animals while supporting animal-friendly economic opportunities.

Animal Justice is seeking funding for the new Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM). The first of its kind in Canada, CCAAM was set up at the University of Windsor in 2017, and has a mandate to develop and promote scientific research, teaching, and toxicity testing methods that do not require the use of animals.

Canadian researchers used over 4.3 million animals in cruel experiments in 2016, an increase of over 20% from 2015. Conventional medical research relies heavily on animal models of disease, even though it is difficult to reliably translate results in animals over to human patients because of significant biological differences between humans and other animals. Scientists around the world are already at work developing animal-free methods because they are more reliable, accurate, and cost-effective. Not only do these animal-free alternatives spare millions of animals from death and suffering, they also represent a significant economic opportunity for Canada as the field grows.

Animal Justice is also asking the government to invest in the plant-based food industry, which is growing at an astonishing rate. People are incorporating more plant-based food products in their diets to protect animals, human health, and the environment. A preliminary draft of Canada’s new Food Guide, released in 2017, also suggests a shift toward recommending that Canadians eat more plant-based foods.

The global meat alternatives market is valued at $4.33 billion and is expected to reach $6.43 billion by 2023. Meanwhile, the global plant-based milk market is set to reach $16.3 billion by the end of 2018.

The federal government has already recognized the economic potential of the plant-based sector, investing $150 million in the industry through the Innovation Superclusters Initiative in 2017.

Canada is already one of the largest producers of flaxseed, canola, oats, and durum wheat, and the third largest producer and exporter of pulses, with the highest yields in the world. With further government investment, Canada is well-positioned to become a powerhouse in the field of plant-based protein. The exponential growth of the plant-based market promises to create a more profitable and competitive economy for Canada, as well as ensuring long-term sustainability in the changing economic landscape.

Have your say! Contact your Member of Parliament to urge them to include animal-friendly initiatives in the 2019 federal budget.

 

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Animal Justice

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Here’s Why #Februdairy is Already Totally Failing

Animal Justice February 2, 2018

Nice try, Big Dairy.

The dairy industry recently launched #Februdairy, a social media campaign aiming to promote dairy milk during the month of February. But before the campaign could even officially start, it quickly became a marketing failure.

When public caught wind, the Twitter hashtag exploded with the shocking truth about the dairy industry—focusing on the immense animal suffering that goes into all dairy milk products:

 

Februdairy tweetFebrudairy tweet
Februdairy tweet

In the Canadian dairy industry, cows are forcefully impregnated, and and their calves are taken away shortly after birth so the milk can be sold. Male calves typically become veal, and female calves suffer the same fate as their mothers. When their bodies wear out and they cease to be profitable, dairy cows are sent to slaughter and become hamburger meat.

Dairy milk is isn’t just bad for animals. It’s linked to multiple diseases in humans, and takes a toll on the environment. Additionally, up to 90% of people of some non-European ethnicities can’t even digest the lactose found in dairy milk.

As plant milk sales continue to soar and dairy sales plummet, it’s easy to see why the dairy industry is desperate to convince people that its products are worth consuming.

According to Statistics Canada, milk consumption has fallen by 21.5% per-capita since 2009. Meanwhile almond milk consumption has tripled in just two years, according to Nielson.

Many milk companies see the writing on the wall, and are choosing to move into the plant-based milk market. Last year, Danone bought WhiteWave Foods, a plant-based milk company, for $10 billion USD. In 2017, Ben and Jerry’s started to roll out its impressive line of vegan ice cream.

Hello, plants—goodbye, dairy!

Meanwhile, Canadian health and food policy also appears to be shifting away from dairy. Health Canada recently released the draft for the new Canada Food Guide. Unlike previous versions, there is no dairy category in sight.

At a recent conference in Scotland, a livestock sustainability consultant stated, “There is a need in the dairy sector for some myth-busting. If consumers don’t buy our products – milk, cream, butter, cheese etc – we will not have a dairy industry in five to 10 years.”

But the real myths are the ones being told by the dairy industry. With the dairy-free movement continuing to grow, this spells good news for people, the planet and the cows.

 

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Animal Justice

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