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Vegans and Covid Vaccines: Update

It is commonly known that medicines are tested on animals, this includes vaccines like the covid vaccines. Because of this many vegans are choosing to not get vaccinated, for them it goes directly against the principle of not harming or exploiting animals and this has caused a debate, a debate about the legal standing of being vegan. Is it a belief system, akin to religion, to be protected in the same ways? Or is it just a choice?

Animals in Medical Testing

The animals used in animal testing a known as “a protected animal”, this means "any living vertebrate other than man and any living cephalopod", cephalopods are animals like squid, octopus or cuttlefish. In the UK animal testing is regulated, with rules that cover any procedure applied to a protected animal which may cause the animal a level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to, or higher than, that caused by the introduction of a needle in accordance with good veterinary practice. You could argue that every stage of animal testing, starting with confining animals in tanks and cages, causes suffering and distress to an animal, but the law says that this is okay. Then at the end of the testing the animals are not allowed to be set free or even to be re-homed unless strict rules have been met, this means that almost all of the animals used in medical testing are killed. In 2017 2.6 million animals were used in testing in the UK.

Vegans and Vaccines

With the emergence of COVID-19 people all over the world are taking vaccines that have been tested on animals and some countries are mandating that people are vaccinated. This has caused many vegans a great deal of distress; they don't want anything to do with a vaccine that has caused animals unnecessary harm. Because of this, vegans will be exempt from COVID-19 vaccinations in the UK if their workplaces enforce a compulsory policy, according to legal experts. Employers may even risk legal action if they ‘insist’ that staff are vaccinated, an Evening Standard report claims.

For vegans that lose their job as a result of refusing to be vaccinated it may be possible to claim constructive dismissal, a spokesperson for the law firm Lewis Silkin told the Telegraph. ‘Some ethical vegans may disagree with vaccinations on the basis that they will inevitably have been tested on animals. Ethical veganism has previously been found to amount to a belief, capable of being protected’, they added.

No Vaccine - No Entry

There is a growing list of countries that are implementing ‘vaccine passports’, from the UK to the EU, Israel and China. These passports show when and where a person has been fully vaccinated. This system is meant to make travel safer and easier through the pandemic. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that UK businesses would be ‘encouraged’, but not required, to use the NHS Covid Pass. This would be in ‘high risk settings’. However Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided that only people that are fully vaccinated can be allowed entry into nightclubs. For some this is considered discriminatory, that such requirements take away a person's personal choice about whether or not to get vaccinated.

Last December, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer came under fire for using controversial animal testing methods in developing its COVID-19 vaccine. However, the vaccine does not contain any ingredients derived from animals, and many vegan doctors suggest vegans should take it to protect themselves and others. The Vegan Society released a statement endorsing getting vaccinated.

“It has never been more important for us to talk about the definition of veganism in the context of medications, including vaccines.

“The definition of veganism recognizes that it is not always possible or practicable to avoid animal use, which is particularly relevant to medical situations.

“In the case of COVID-19, vaccination will play a fundamental role in tackling the pandemic and saving lives. …All vaccines currently are tested on animals.

“At this stage it is impossible to have a vaccine that has been created without animal use.”


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