Food for Thought

Did you hear that a federal court has ruled that veganism may count as a religion? Sakile Chenzira was fired from her job at a hospital because she refused a flu shot due to eggs used in its production. She is suing the hospital for religious discrimination. This isn’t the first time this has happened, though the 2002 lawsuit was dismissed.

When I first saw the headline about veganism being counted as a religion, I chuckled. I’m happy with my lifestyle and I’m serious about the changes I’ve made, but I can’t help but feel that we vegans sometimes take ourselves a little too seriously. How intense is too intense, though? How does our motivation to be vegan impact our everyday decisions?


Taken from this article: “A person who practices veganism for moral reasons may be protected against religious discrimination, where a person who practices veganism for health or environmental reasons may not be protected.” (from Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired by Donna Ballman)

I agree that the termination was wrong — and I say that as a vegan who got her flu shot without blinking an eye. Now, if I was a strict vegan and got fired for not getting a flu shot, I would definitely sue, even if I did work in a hospital where it’s important that employees do whatever they can to prevent illness. But I’m not vegan for religious reasons.

It can be challenging when people question why I’m vegan or when people are insensitive about it. We’ve all been there and had those conversations or awkward experiences. That said, I’m not as offended by comments on my veganism as I may be about my ethnicity or faith or something I can’t control like my height. Should I be more sensitive? On the other hand, wouldn’t it be a little hypocritical of me to take offense if someone offers me a steak when I used to eat steak whenever I could get it? What would it take — what situation can occur — that would make me stand my ground as a vegan?

Just some food for thought. Let me know what y0u think in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Food for Thought

  1. Kinenchen says:

    You didn’t pick your ethnicity or your height so I don’t think those things are fair ground for criticism. You did pick veganism and for reasons that you can defend even if they don’t convince others (somehow science doesn’t always convince people of evolution so it’s not for lack of good, logical approaches to evidence based conclusions). I love you, Melissa. 🙂

  2. I’m glad you brought this up because it makes me think a bit about my situation. I work in healthcare and am required to get a flu shot, which I have done, without question, in the past. I have never thought twice about the eggs used in the vaccine (and they are used in other vaccines too) though I abhor eating them or their use in food. I also take several medications that no doubt have been tested on animals and may contain animal ingredients. Of course, no one is forcing me to take the meds, but I do so in order to maintain certain aspects of my health which unfortunately can’t be controlled with natural remedies. I accept it as a necessary evil and do feel some guilt about it.
    I know that in my workplace you can decline the flu shot for allergy or religious reasons. I don’t think a company has any right to inquire what religion doesn’t allow egg consumption, thus if she said it was for religious reasons, they should have left it at that. Calling veganism a religion is going to be tricky though, especially that part about it only being a religion if practiced for moral reasons. How do you prove that? And why should those who practice it for health/environmental resons be discluded? Their reasons to lead a plant-based existence shouldn’t matter. I know that a lot of rules/laws get taken advantage of and this would probably be no different but I do think we are at the point where vegans should be able to have a say in situations like required flu shots. A few years ago when the swine flu was bad our company sent out an email that any employee who did not get the flu shot would not get paid for sick time should they contract the virus. At the time it seemed unfair, but now I think I would prefer that to getting the shot. At least I wouldn’t feel like I had compromised my values. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in court.

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