Is there any discrimination against vegetarians and vegans

Vegans have typical problem constellations in the field of labor law.

This includes the rejection of a job application due to the vegan lifestyle. Another problem that can arise with vegans is that the employer entrusts them with tasks that are not in line with their ethical consumption orientation. Finally, there are also job-specific problems, such as the question of whether one can practice the profession of cook or dietitian and, in particular, learn without preparing animal products. A similar problem arises with home economics teachers who are supposed to teach the preparation of animal products in their lessons.

Rejection of a job application due to vegan attitude towards life

One such case was discussed at the second international conference on vegan law in Berlin in 2017. An advertisement was placed in England seeking a carer for a girl with anorexia. The ad explicitly stated that vegans would not be accepted for this position.
If vegans fall within the scope of protection of the General Equal Treatment Act, then in Germany those interested in vegans for this position could check whether they are not entitled to compensation for discrimination. This could amount to up to three monthly salaries if there is evidence of discrimination. Another prerequisite for the claim for damages would be that the discrimination must not be justified, which would require a closer examination of the clinical picture of anorexia.

Protection of the General Equal Treatment Act

It is therefore in the special interest of vegans that they fall under the protection of the General Equal Treatment Act. The General Equal Treatment Act protects people from discrimination, especially in the case groups relevant here, on the basis of their religion and worldview. The General Equal Treatment Act also has other special advantages, such as a reversal of the burden of proof, a right of retention and the possibility of an immaterial claim for damages in the event of discrimination. Of course, this should also apply to vegans.

Are vegans protected from discrimination in the workplace and in other areas by the German General Equal Treatment Act?

This is controversial in the legal literature and a model case that will bring about future clarification has not yet been judged in court.

Should a person follow a vegan diet for religious reasons, it is undisputed that the term religion falls under the protection of German anti-discrimination law. It is all the more strange that in almost all comments on the General Equal Treatment Act, ethical veganism is not considered protected. In order to fall under the protection of the General Equal Treatment Act, ethical veganism would have to be viewed as a worldview within the meaning of the General Equal Treatment Act. The term Weltanschauung in the General Equal Treatment Act is based in these commentaries on the interpretation of the previous interpretations of the Weltanschauung concept of the Basic Law. This is very narrow and, according to the prevailing opinion, does not apply to ethical veganism. In legal German it is argued that a world view, in contrast to religion, is shaped by immanence and not by transcendence. In addition, the worldview must be an analogue to religion and be designed in a similarly global manner. This is generally denied to ethical veganism. A critical examination is currently taking place with the concept of worldview. A seminal essay on this topic will be published soon.

European Directive

In the European directive on which the General Equal Treatment Act is based, however, the term “belief” was used. In the tradition of European jurisprudence, particularly in accordance with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, belief is clearly defined, namely as a solid view that has a certain degree of coherence, durability, seriousness and weight. According to the established jurisprudence of the European courts, this applies to ethical veganism. Against this background, according to the local view, the concept of ideology of the General Equal Treatment Act would have to be interpreted in the same way as the term amounted to "established view". The German legislator could have translated better and should have chosen the term “established views”. Now lawyers are required to interpret the term worldview according to the General Equal Treatment Act. According to the jurisprudence of the European courts, German judges are obliged to interpret indefinite legal terms in accordance with the directive.

To this end, the European Court of Justice stated the following on the question of the interpretation of the directive with regard to the labor law implementation of European directives in national law in decision C-282/10, Dominguez JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF JUSTICE (Grand Chamber) of January 24, 2012:

According to settled case law, the national courts, when applying national law, must interpret it as far as possible on the basis of the wording and purpose of the directive in order to achieve the objective set out in the directive and thus comply with Article 288 (3) TFEU. The obligation to interpret national law in conformity with Union law is inherent in the system of the FEU Treaty, since it enables the national courts to ensure the full effectiveness of Union law within the framework of their competences when they decide on the legal disputes pending before them (see, inter alia, judgments of 5 October 2004, Pfeiffer and Others, C 397/01 to C 403/01, ECR 2004, I 8835, paragraph 114, of 23 April 2009, Angelidaki and Others, C 378/07 to C 380/07, ECR 2009, I 3071, paragraphs 197 and 198, and of 19 January 2010, Kücükdeveci, C 555/07, ECR 2010, I 365, paragraph 48).

The principle of the interpretation of national law in conformity with Union law is subject to certain restrictions. The obligation of the national judge to refer to the content of a directive when interpreting and applying the relevant provisions of national law is limited in the general legal principles and must not serve as a basis for an interpretation contra legem of national law (cf. 15 April 2008, Impact, C 268/06, ECR 2008, I 2483, paragraph 100, and Angelidaki and Others, paragraph 199). "
It is therefore obvious that judges who meet this requirement must take into account the history of its origins and the desire to choose a broad concept of worldview in the sense of belief.

Protection for religious vegans and secular ethical vegans

A different interpretation would also be problematic for other reasons. It is hard to see why religious vegans should be better protected than secular ethical vegans. In addition, it is unacceptable that in other European countries that have implemented the directive, ethical veganism is protected by the term "belief" - for example in England - but not in Germany of all places.

In this context, there is one more argument to be refuted that often circulates between the lines and under the palm of the hand. If one interprets the term Weltanschauung more broadly than in the constitution, then extremists such as right-wing radicals or Scientologists would also be protected by the term. I consider this fear to be unfounded. In the tradition of the human rights term “belief” there is already a restriction in the interpretation of the term to the effect that anti-constitutional efforts are not protected by this term. Such groupings could therefore easily be removed from the scope of protection of the AGG by way of the traditional interpretation.

Comments on labor law

Against the background, it is to be hoped that the comments on labor law will result in a change of opinion in the future. Furthermore, a suitable sample case is awaited in order to finally clarify this important legal question in court. The labor judge who has to review such a case would also have the option of referring this legal question directly to the European Court of Justice by means of a so-called order for reference.

Until then, Vegan will work hard to correct this incorrect legal opinion. It is planned to have an article written by international legal experts specifically on this topic in the international journal for vegan law, which is also being planned.

In some cases it has already been successfully argued that there is discrimination against vegans. As far as we know, this has not yet been decided in court.

According to the local opinion, not only religious but also ethical veganism falls under the protection of the general equal treatment law.

Discriminatory and arbitrary work instructions for vegans

Can one defend oneself against it if vegans are instructed by employers to sell meat or to carry out activities that contradict the attitude of not causing animal harm?

This depends on the respective employment contract. For example, if you work in a butcher's shop, your employer should of course instruct that sale. However, if those affected work in a grocery store, for example, or do some other job that is not primarily related to meat production, according to the local opinion, one can invoke the General Equal Treatment Act as well as the principles of the Civil Code in the so-called arbitrary one Instruction is prohibited. (Section 315 (II) BGB) In such cases, the employer must prove in court that there is an operational necessity for the vegan of all people to be employed in the work that contradicts his ethical ideas.

Instructions under protest

Affected people are advised to do their work under protest in the event of such instructions in order to then have the labor court clarified that the instruction is illegal. This avoids the risk of being warned and terminated. In the meantime, however, parts of the literature suggest that arbitrary instructions do not bind the employee to the instructions of the employer. In my opinion, those affected should not bear the risk of the court decision if the case can be resolved without endangering the employment relationship.

As a home economics teacher, can you be forced to prepare animal products?

This is a case that we have already looked after in practice. As a home economics teacher, the curriculum regularly provides that meat and animal products are prepared and that this is conveyed to the students.

In this situation, the home economics teacher has the option of using vegan meat substitutes himself, which meet the same requirements in terms of preparation, consistency, seasoning, etc. meet how the corresponding animal product. However, this should be discussed in advance with the employer.

The students should definitely be able to decide for themselves whether to prepare meat or vegan alternative products.

In the event of a conflict with the employer, a court should clarify whether the employer's instruction to prepare meat is not an arbitrary instruction. Until then, however, it can only be recommended to follow the instructions of the employer, as otherwise the job would be endangered.

Can you work and become a cook as a vegan cook in the Federal Republic of Germany without preparing animal products?

Cooking training still requires that you cook meat.
The solution in such a constellation is likely to lie in so-called forum shopping.
This means that you choose the legal circle that is more suitable for the goal you are striving for.
As a cook you can also work in Germany if you have completed your training abroad. So it would be possible to complete your vegan cooking training abroad in order to later work as a cook in Germany.

It remains to be hoped and also aimed at that in the future the job description of the vegan cook can also be learned in Germany without the obligation to prepare animal products.


With regard to vegan labor law, there are still some improvements to be made. On the one hand, the recognition of the protection of ethical vegans by the General Equal Treatment Act needs to be clarified. Here we will arrange sample cases, legal technical articles and a general clarification. In addition, the situation of home economics teachers, dietitians and cooks is clearly in need of improvement. Here it would be desirable if those affected were home economics teachers and cooks to join forces in order to improve their situation together. Until then, please refer to the local recommendations.