SAFE defends ‘vegan’ requirement in job advertisement

This article has been reproduced with the permission of Newshub.  It was written by Rachel Sadler and Ireland Hendry-Tennent, and published by Newshub on 10/12/2020.

Animal rights group SAFE is defending its job advertisement that required applicants to be vegan.

SAFE posted a listing for a head of campaigns position on Wednesday. The advertisement says: “To be considered for this role you will need to demonstrate: that you are vegan with a knowledge of and genuine commitment to animal rights.”

SAFE chief executive Debra Ashton told Newshub they sought independent legal advice and also contacted the Human Rights Commission before listing the job.

“[The advice] stated that Section 21 of the Human Rights Act 1993, which sets out the prohibited grounds of discrimination, does not appear to make discrimination on the basis of dietary preference, such as veganism, unlawful,” she said in a statement. “Therefore, we are comfortable at this stage with advertising for vegan staff.”

Ashton said all staff at SAFE are vegan, and this requirement narrows down the number of applicants to those who “truly align” to SAFE’s goals to represent the rights of animals.

“We’re privileged to have a group of talented professionals at SAFE who follow a vegan lifestyle which puts us in the best position to advocate for animals.

“Our mission is to educate, inform and empower people to make cruelty-free, plant-based and vegan choices.”

There are 13 prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Human Rights Act. These are sex, marital status, religious belief, ethical belief, colour, race, ethnic or national origins, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status, and sexual orientation.

While veganism could be classed as an ethical belief, this specifically applies to the lack of a religious belief under the Human Rights legislation.

SAFE defends 'vegan' requirement in job advertisement
Photo credit: SAFE’s advertisement on Seek

Employment law expert Jennifer Mills told Newshub for SAFE’s advert to be discriminatory, it must fit within the 13 prohibited grounds under the Act.

“The main situation in which this advert may be discriminatory is where an individual has a disability in the form of a physical illness which prevents them from being vegan,” she said in a statement.

Mills said while you could “possibly argue” discrimination under religious belief, ethical belief, or political opinion, this particular ad is “unlikely to constitute unlawful discrimination in New Zealand”.

A Human Rights Commission spokesperson told Newshub while political opinion is a prohibited ground of discrimination, it’s unlikely veganism falls under this.

“Court rulings to date have taken a narrow view of what constitutes political opinion, considering it applies to political convictions related to government-related issues and union activities rather than individual ethical positions,” they said.

The spokesperson added if anyone considers they’ve been discriminated against – either directly or indirectly – they can contact the Human Rights Commission and lodge a complaint.