On 8th February 2024, a lower court in the city of Hjørring, Denmark, granted the vegan movement a milestone victory by ruling in favour of a couple who sued a kindergarten and a municipality for discrimination against their vegan daughter.
The case was about the right of vegan children in public daycare institutions to be able to eat vegan food. Both a kindergarten and the municipality of Jammerbugt running it had refused to prepare vegan food for the schoolgirl, as well as denying the parents the possibility to send a vegan packed lunch with their daughter. So, on behalf of Mia and Simon Kjær Brinkmann, a lawsuit was brought forward by the Vegetarian Society of Denmark, and was won.
For the first time, a Danish court acknowledged that vegans have the right to not be “treated worse than people without vegan convictions who are in a similar or comparable situation”. The court agreed that the child, due to the lack of opportunity to be served exclusively vegan food in the desired kindergarten and the simultaneous refusal to bring her packed lunch, was treated worse than children who do not live according to a vegan conviction, since she was discriminated solely as a result of her vegan beliefs. The court agreed she was exposed to indirect discrimination, in breach of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in conjunction with Article 9.
This was not the first case where veganism was recognised as a protected belief. In 2020, an Employment Tribunal judge in the UK also ruled that ethical veganism was a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.
In line with similar previous ECHR-based rulings, the family was given a compensation of about 1.500 Euros, and the municipality will also have to pay their legal expenses and fees. The verdict does not explicitly grant the right to be served vegan food in any daycare institution but acknowledges the right for vegans not to be treated worse than non-vegans. The litigation became possible because around 1,500 citizens supported it financially.
On 25th April 2024, another Danish court will hear another case also brought forward by the Danish Vegetarian Society, related to a woman who, during her pregnancy, was denied a proper vegan meal at a hospital, and later told to bring a packed lunch for her childbirth.