Veganism = Religion?

veganandreligion

Spencer Lo

When one considers the idea of ‘veganism,’ the notion that it is a religion—one relevantly similar to traditional religions—may strike some not only as obviously false but also absurd. Isn’t veganism (obviously) a diet at the very least or a philosophy at best? What does it offer on the ‘big questions’ usually associated with religion, such as those pertaining to the origin of the universe, the after-life, supernatural beings, and the human soul? Most people I’m sure, including vegans, do not consider veganism to be a religion as such, even though it may be required or encouraged by certain religions.

However, as illustrated in a recent lawsuit in Ohio, it turns out that veganism could qualify as a religion under federal anti-discrimination law. Professor Sherry F. Colb explained the ongoing case in her recent piece. Sakile Chenzira, a former customer service representative at a hospital, refused a mandatory flu shot (produced in chicken eggs) because it conflicted with her convictions as an ethical vegan, which resulted in the termination of her employment. She then sued the hospital alleging that the firing constituted religious discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer…to discharge any individual…because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”). In a ruling denying the hospital’s motion to dismiss, the federal district court judge held that Chenzira’s claim may actually have merit. Read More

New Animal Ethics Book Series

David Cassuto

From the email:

LAUNCH OF PIONEERING BOOK SERIES ON ANIMAL ETHICS

 

The publisher Palgrave Macmillan in partnership with the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics is delighted to announce the publication of the first two books in its pioneering new book series on animal ethics: An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory by Alasdair Cochrane and An Introduction to Animals and the Law by Joan Schaffner.

 

The Palgrave Macmillan book series is jointly edited by the internationally known theologian the Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey, Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and Professor Priscilla Cohn, Emeritus Professor in Philosophy at Penn State University and Associate Director of the Centre. The book series aims to publish ground breaking work written by new and established academics from a wide range of disciplines including anthropology, ethics, history, law, literature, linguistics, political theory, religion and science. The series will provide a range of key introductory and advanced texts that map out ethical positions on animals.               Continue reading

Bullfights in….California?

One of the most vexing problems that animal advocates face is fighting animal cruelty that is justified by reference to religious traditions. David has written about the problem here. A not so well known instance where there is a clash between religion and cruelty is in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where the hot summer nights give way to a spectacle that many Americans don’t know takes place in their country: bullfighting. The fights are organized mainly by a community of Portuguese immigrants who claim that the bullfights are an integral part of their religious and cultural tradition. Why can such a cruel spectacle be conducted lawfully in California? Because the San Joaquín bullfights are bloodless! How can a bullfight be bloodless? The L.A. Times explains:

In 1957, California banned gory bullfights but did allow supporters — mostly Portuguese dairy farmers from the Azores, where the sport is popular and bloodless — to continue the tradition as long as the bull isn’t harmed or killed, and contests were staged in conjunction with religious festivals.

The Velcro adaptation – a bandarilha tipped not with razor-sharp darts but with nonlethal Velcro – was introduced in 1980 by Dennis Borba, an American-born matadorwhose father, Frank, was one of a few pioneering immigrants to revive the old-world spectacle in the 1960s.

Recently, animal advocates claimed that at least some bullfights are not really bloodless, as some 30 barbed banderillas were found at a bullfight in Los Angeles County. Harming bulls with real banderillas is, of course, unacceptable. Assuming, however, that the Velcro version of the banderilla is used, should the spectacle be banned anyway? Why or why not?

Luis Chiesa

On Judaism & Fur

A colleague recently shared this article, written for an Orthodox Jewish website, on the issue of wearing fur.  The author is the president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America.  The piece offers a learned discussion of the tradition of compassion and respect for nonhumans woven through Judaism.  Perhaps even more interesting are the comments, which range from the thoughtful to the completely obtuse, all the while referencing Jewish law.

David Cassuto