A vegan police officer has filed a lawsuit against his employer, the German Federal Police. For training courses and assignments away from home, Joschua Thuir always had to provide his own food at his own expense even though contributions towards expenses for the non-vegan catering supplied by the police were deducted from his salary. In his plea, he convincingly invoked freedom of conscience and belief. The Albert Schweitzer Foundation supported the lawsuit and is hoping that it will set a precedent for similar cases in the future.
Ever since 2014, the police officer had repeatedly made unsuccessful requests for contributions towards expenses for the non-vegan catering provided during training courses and assignments not to be deducted from his salary. Despite approaching kitchen staff, he was not offered fully plant-based meals. His appeals were supported by the police trade union but rejected by the German Federal Police. So, in 2020, Joschua Thuir filed a lawsuit.
Non-Vegan Food Unacceptable for Vegans
In 2011, Joschua Thuir made the conscious decision to adopt a vegan lifestyle in order to no longer support animal cruelty and exploitation. His beliefs are reflected in all aspects of his life: Not only does he follow a vegan diet, but he also makes sure, among other things, to choose only clothes and furniture made without leather or fur as well as hygiene products not tested on animals. And in his spare time, he is also active in various animal rights groups.
The police initially argued that a vegan diet was nothing more than the police officer’s »private interest«, something they did not have to take into consideration. They later claimed that federal canteens are required to adhere to the standards set by the German Nutrition Society (DGE), which only means providing a daily vegetarian alternative. In their opinion, this provided Joschua Thuir with ample food options, thereby justifying the deductions from his salary.
In 2022, however, having studied Joshua Thuir’s detailed explanation of his ethical and conscientious motives in his statement of claim, the police finally acknowledged that »being an ethical vegan, he cannot be expected to take part in communal catering«. In doing so, the German Federal Police eliminated the cause of action and the case was dismissed. The police not only recalculated his salary (separation allowance) but also had to bear the costs of the proceedings.
Omnivorous Standard out of Date
In 2019, a court in the UK had already classified another plaintiff’s vegan lifestyle as a (philosophical) belief system worthy of protection, meaning that he is protected by the ban on discrimination and must not be discriminated against by his employer because of his vegan lifestyle.
From the point of view of the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, Joschua Thuir’s case is a prime example of how vegans in Germany still have major obstacles put in their way when it comes to communal catering and public institutions. All too often in these contexts, being offered adequate vegan options on a regular basis is something they can only dream of.
Mahi Klosterhalfen, president of the Albert Schweitzer Foundation: »Be it for ethical, religious or other reasons, in a diverse and enlightened society, dishes containing meat, dairy or eggs have long since ceased to suit everyone. Plant-based nutrition is much more inclusive. After all, it circumvents religious rules for animal products and is also suitable for people who cannot tolerate dairy. There is no question that the vegan option is the better choice from both an ethical and ecological point of view and so should therefore be the standard.«