The lawsuit has been admitted by the European Court of Human rights, which rejects 95% of the cases submitted for its consideration.
An animal rights activist has taken the Swiss state prison to court for not providing him with vegan meals.
Appealing at the European Court of Human rights, the detainee filed a complaint against Switzerland’s Champ-Dollon prison in Geneva.
It all began after the activist was arrested in 2018 for breaking into various Swiss slaughterhouses, butchers and restaurants and for causing damage.
The then 28-year-old activist was placed in pre-trial detention for 11 months. Within a few days in prison, the detainee complained to the authorities that there were no proper vegan meals for him to choose from.
According to the vegan activist, he was forced to eat strictly salad, rice and bread in prison, which did not constitute all the necessary nutrients of a balanced diet.
He was offered a B12 supplement, which he rejected since it was from animal origins. A lack of B12 can lead to nervous system damage, and it is highly advised that vegans maintain their levels either via supplementation or fortified food.
The activist was eventually diagnosed with an iron deficiency and also suffered from constipation and hemorrhoids during his prison term.
Meanwhile, the activist’s written plea to have this diet modified was dismissed by prison authorities as they claimed to have already made the effort to provide him with meals as close as possible to his requests.
An appeal to Switzerland’s federal court in June 2020 was also rejected.
Complaint submitted to European court of human rights
According to the Guardian, after being rejected by the federal court, the prisoner’s lawyer took the case to the Strasbourg-based European court of human rights (ECHR) for violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The provision establishes that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”.
In particular, it guarantees that detainees are entitled to meals in line with their religious beliefs. However, the extension to claiming dietary rights on ethical grounds has never been clearly settled.
A similar complaint was lodged by a second activist, who was in a psychiatric hospital in 2022. He joined the activist’s lawsuit and both submissions were accepted by the ECHR at the end of September 2022.
It is important to note that ECHR, which rejects around 95% of the cases submitted, admitted it, indicating a significant milestone in veganism history.
Switzerland has been given 3 to 4 months to respond. The case is a landmark of sorts as the outcome will determine whether the right to a vegan diet should be enshrined in prisons and hospitals.
Moreover, while the right to vegan food in prisons is already legally covered in some European countries for religious reasons, veganism could be defined as an ethical belief system if the ECHR decides to extend this right.
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