Vegan campaigner complains that "vegaphobia" means that vegans need the same legal protection from discrimination as religious people

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It’s sometimes difficult to explain why many people find vegans so irritating. If you look at it logically, the pros of a healthy, plant-orientated approach to food should be pretty easy to stomach. Yet, for some reason, the majority of us react with fire and fury at the mere mention of anyone who might not enjoy the idea of a bloody slice of steak. There are several potential explanations for this. An obvious possibility is that we all hate being told what to do, whatever the context. But a more nuanced interpretation might be that the occasionally pious, neurotic and hysterical allegories drawn by those on the extreme fringes of the movement end up tarring all members with the same ugly brush. This is certainly why some people are seriously angry at the idea that vegans are an “oppressed minority”, as has been suggested this week.

According to a report in The Times, 54-year-old campaigner Jordi Casamitjana has made the case that, having been fired from his position at The League Against Cruel Sports, vegans deserve the same protection rights as religious, racial or sexual minorities. The Times state that, “after disclosing that the charity invested pension funds in companies that carry out animal testing…[Casamitjana] says that this amounted to him being dismissed over his beliefs,” which would amount to unjust discrimination against other minority groups.

A self-described “ethical vegan” Casamitjana likens his strict adherence to something more akin to religious doctrine than a lifestyle choice. The Times state that, “He does not wear leather, silk or wool, avoids any products developed through animal testing, refuses to visit zoos or aquariums, will not buy products that use captive animals in their advertisements, and will only date other vegans.”

Speaking to the BBC, Casamitjana went further, explaining "Some people only eat a vegan diet but they don't care about the environment or the animals, they only care about their health. I care about the animals and the environment and my health and everything. That's why I use this term 'ethical veganism', because for me veganism is a belief and affects every single aspect of my life."

There are a couple of problems with this case. The first is that The League Against Cruel sports “emphatically reject” the claim that Casamitjana was fired on account of his veganism, instead alleging that he lost his position after “gross misconduct”. This would seem to repudiate his account of unfair, targeted bias.

The second is the deeply problematic parallels that are being drawn between someone who has chosen to live a life free from animal products and a person who faces daily discrimination and disadvantage because of how they were born or raised. The societal injustices experienced because of skin colour or sexual orientation cannot be compared to someone who chooses not to eat cheese. To try and do so is, at best, a woeful misunderstanding of privilege and at worst, wilful ignorance of the real plight of sorely underrepresented and often actively endangered members of society.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with being vegan. As the environmental and physical impacts of a meat-high diet become increasingly clear, it seems ever more likely that plant-based living will grow more popular than ever. But that does not give anyone the right to claim that a personal choice is akin to endemic prejudice. Trying to make this argument is precisely the sort of thing that makes the majority of people seriously mad.