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A restaurant R has a menu of various things but does not include vegan options. As veganism is a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010 and the Grainger test, this omission affects vegans disproportionately.

If the restaurant was a steakhouse intended to cater specifically to meat enthusiasts or ideological carnivores, then I could imagine the non-accommodation as being a legitimate end to a proportionate aim, but otherwise, has a restaurant not committed unlawful discrimination against vegans?

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    Can the same not be said the other way around? Is it not discrimination against meat enthusiasts for a vegan restaurant to not include a steak on the menu? if you want vegan go to a vegan restaurant, if you want a steak go to a steakhouse. Jan 10, 2023 at 13:53
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    At least in the U.S., most Steakhouses will include a salad option for the vegetarian crowd, but it may not be vegan (it may include animal products in the form of eggs and cheese).
    – hszmv
    Jan 10, 2023 at 13:57
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    @Seekinganswers It does go without saying that dietary restrictions alone are not a protected class and it's not considered a reasonable accommodation for a restaurant to cater to a dietary restriction. Typically, they will have one or two options for those who have a restriction marked on the menu, but that's because it's poor buisness sense to not sell food to people who don't want your signature item. McDonald's for example, makes a lot of money on their Fish Filet because it's popular with Catholics (to the point it's called "The Catholic Big Mac").
    – hszmv
    Jan 10, 2023 at 16:18
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    @Seekinganswers I believe the tradition of not eating meat on Friday stems from the fact that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Something that was very sad to his followers and that meat was considered a celebration meal. So they consider it poor and rather eat fish.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jan 10, 2023 at 19:15
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    @Seekinganswers Additionally, Muslims can eat traditionally non-Halal food if it has been blessed by a person of an Abrahamic faith (Given the note about Kosher being stricter, this really only refers to food made by a Christian) so long as the person offering the food is unaware of the dietary restriction. A Muslim cannot ask his Christian friend to ask for God to bless some bacon so they can eat it. The exception is to cover pre-Islamic Arabic culture's very strict Hospitality customs, which make it a taboo for a guest to refuse a meal offered by a host.
    – hszmv
    Jan 10, 2023 at 20:37

2 Answers 2

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Caveat about the "Grainger test" as applied to veganism

Grainger plc v Nicholson is a 2010 employment discrimination case. It established a five-point test for whether a philosophical belief triggers the protection of the Equality Act 2010. See the judgment here, §24.

A 2020 preliminary hearing in Casamitjana v The League Against Cruel Sports found that the claimant (= plaintiff, for US readers) held a belief in ethical veganism that did meet the five-point test.

I would note that Casamitjana’s beliefs are much stronger than "simple" veganism. The judgment at §17-§22 enumerates a list of Casamitjana’s behaviour, much of which goes well beyond what the average vegan undertakes, such as avoiding the use of bank notes (manufactured from animal products) or public transportation (buses kill insects).

I would assume that "simple" vegan beliefs could still meet the "philosophical belief" test, but I can see obvious differences with the Casamitjana case and would not advise anyone to rely solely on it.

The restaurant case

I refer to this excellent answer regarding a different hypothetical. The key question is whether the restaurant’s choice of menu is "a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".

In that case, the restaurant might argue that they chose what dishes to offer based on the cook’s ability, on a commercial strategy of selling only high-end dishes, or other similar considerations. (Note that I have not practiced law in E&W, and any real-world respondent would do well to consult a qualified sollicitor before relying on that argument.)

As a non-legal answer, I would also argue that such an application of the Equality Act 2010 would be extremely burdening. For instance, ethical vegans could sue any restaurant offering any non-vegan options at all (regardless of whether there are vegan options on the menu, they would not want to patronize such a restaurant), or transportation company using leather seats in their vehicles; Orthodox Jews might sue any business open on Saturdays; and so on. However, I do not know how that objection could be worked into a legal argument.

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Under the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their philosophical belief, including veganism, if that belief is considered a "protected characteristic." However, simply not offering vegan options on a menu would not necessarily be considered direct discrimination on the basis of philosophical belief.

Indirect discrimination occurs when a provision, criterion, or practice (PCP) is applied equally to everyone but disproportionately affects a particular group of people. For example, if a restaurant only offered a limited selection of dishes, none of which were suitable for vegans, that could be considered indirect discrimination because it would disproportionately affect vegans.

It would be important to prove that the restaurant does not cater for vegans on the menu, and that it put them at a substantial disadvantage, and that there are no legitimate reasons for the restaurant to not offering vegan options.

It would be up to the courts to decide whether a lack of vegan options on a menu constitutes indirect discrimination on the basis of philosophical belief, but it's possible that this could be the case, especially if the restaurant could reasonably accommodate vegans by offering a sufficient selection of vegan options.

However, If a restaurant, on the other hand, was catering for a diverse group and it is not commercially viable for them to cater for every dietary requirement, it would not be considered as indirect discrimination.

It is worth noting that, Many independent and chain restaurants now offer vegan options to cater for a diverse group of customers and to address ethical concerns around animal welfare.

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    The dichotomy that anti meat eaters have that meat eating is against animal welfare is just false. Farmers often take excellent care of there animals even if they do so with the end goal of slaughtering the animal. If you raise cattle for a living then these animals are your livelihood. You will take good care of them.
    – Neil Meyer
    Jan 10, 2023 at 19:07

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