Application to the OHRC
Response to Jack Astor's Bar & Grill: Discriminatory Behaviour Directed at Vegans
The ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS CODE
What is “discrimination”?
a) DEFINING DISCRIMINATION
“Discrimination is not defined in the Code but usually includes the following elements:
- not individually assessing the unique merits, capacities and circumstances of a person
- instead, making stereotypical assumptions based on a person’s presumed traits
- having the impact of excluding persons denying benefits or imposing burdens.”
“Many people wrongly think that discrimination does not exist if the impact was not intended, or if there were other factors that could explain a particular situation. In fact, discrimination often takes place without any intent to do harm.”
Accommodation in law
The refusal in accommodating a person's needs has been recognized as a violation of Human Rights in Ontario. Restaurants have been found to violate rights by refusal to make accommodations in a variety of cases, including in instances where a person wanted to arrange a table and bread basket, and had OCD. The accommodation had required the person sitting in a part of the restaurant away from customers, serving his water without a straw or lemon, his cutlery on a plate, and his bread on a napkin in a basket. The franchise was sold and the new management refused, making him unwelcome, and then eventually not permitting him to attend. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found them in violation.
There are other cases where service animals were not permitted entry, where health needs were not accommodated, where persons were required to pay the bill in advance as a result of racism, where there were gender-specific or sexualized dress codes requiring outfits forced to be worn by employees, where there was discrimination on the ground of disability, where accessibility was denied, where there was “injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect,” and a myriad of other grounds.
Not all of these even require entry to the restaurant. In some cases, the precise violation was the very fact that entry was denied. Accommodation takes many forms. However, it is unequivocally a violation if there is a barrier to entry. A barrier that does not need to be physical obviously. A barrier can constitute at the denial of entry to a specific group. A barrier can be discrimination against a specific group.
A message which causes injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect of vegans, posted by a chain restaurant close to its location, followed by a post on social media, and which effectively makes them unwelcome, is caught under the provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code, and its Policies on Creed.
Injury to feelings, dignity and self respect is the result of showing an unfair or prejudicial distinction between different categories of people who might frequent an establishment covered under “Protected Areas.” Posting a huge billboard in close proximity to a prominent restaurant chain, and proclaiming, for example, that a specific group is not welcome, would be a clear violation. It is all the more clear when a restaurant chain itself does it precluding approximately one million Canadians, or 2.3% of the population.
In 2015, Jack Astor's had already apologized to animal rights activists, something it and the parent company, Service Inspired Restaurants, evidently did not take to heart.
The posting by Jack Astor's Bar & Grill (“Jack Astor's”) conveys at least the following messages:
- Vegans need Rehabilitation;
- Vegans need to start eating animals; and
- Vegans need Jack Astor's “The Boss Hogg Burger.”
Sadly, it also conveys that genuine Rehabilitation, sought by and needed by millions of us for addiction, substance abuse and mental illness, is to be treated flippantly. Persons who need support for real issues and have the strength and conviction to seek support are thus berated. “Alcoholics Rehabilitation” would be an injury to feelings, dignity and self respect, and consequently a violation, if the arrow in the photograph pointed at the beverage and it was marked as “The Boss Beer.”
Is “Vegan Rehabilitation” pointing to “The Boss Hogg Burger,” consisting of parts of cows, pigs and dairy cow milk, any different for a vegan than “Alcoholics Rehabilitation” would be if it pointed to an alcoholic beverage? Alcoholism, an illness, is a protected ground under disability, just as ethical veganism is a protected ground under Creed, based on the Policy of September 17, 2015, where Creed includes “non-religious belief systems that, like religion, substantially influence a person’s identity, worldview and way of life.”
Jack Astor's posted a follow up on social media, continuing in similar vein, to shun vegans as a “very vocal” demographic. It went on to say that -- no -- vegans don't require Rehabilitation, and that if vegans think so then they lack iron. In its follow up it used animal analogies. It continued to denigrate those of us who take veganism seriously, and our meat inclusive friends that vocally -- and being an even larger demographic -- support us.
Entry as a barrier can come at the door of a restaurant, on a message at a billboard placed nearby, or on social media.
Jack Astor's may take this light heartedly. Approximately 7,000 animals are consumed by a person during our human lifespan (counting: cows, pigs, chickens, fish, turkeys, sheep). We reject the discriminatory conduct and behaviour demonstrated by Jack Astor's. We refuse its Rehabilitation.
We shall deal with it in the proper forum, among experts at assessing its message to us, and for those who support us. The applicants respectfully request that this matter proceed regardless of whether Jack Astor's removes its billboard, and discontinues its campaign, for reasons described hereunder.
Belittling and discriminating against vegans is contrary to rights afforded and protected by the OHRC.
Dalhousie University’s research this year indicated that there are 2.3 million vegetarians in Canada, an increase of over 2.5 times from fifteen years ago, and 850,000 Canadians consider themselves vegan. By percentage, 7.1 per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians, and 2.3 per cent consider themselves vegans.
Together, these numbers comprise 9.4 per cent of the Canadian population.
Where discriminatory behaviour is done and promoted in public view by Canadian companies in relation to goods, services and facilities, it is especially disgraceful, unbecoming, egregious, and contrary to law.
To put the discriminatory conduct by Jack Astor's Bar & Grill in perspective, one need only think of the beverage being beer or other alcohol, and the caption reading “Alcoholics Rehabilitation,” or directed at other groups “Kosher Rehabilitation,” or “Halal Rehabilitation.
Jack Astor's continued to discriminate against vegans in a follow up post made on Facebook, eliciting a multitude of comments and hundreds of shares, not even counting re-shares and further comments. The site has over 168,512 Facebook likes.
That follow up, discriminatory as it was, posted on Facebook and Twitter on December 10, 2018 -- which shall also be addressed as part of this application -- was widely criticized by non vegans and vegans alike. On December 11, 2018 we gave notice to Jack Astor's of this application, stating, “As you may have heard, we have prepared a complaint to the OHRC which will follow shortly. This will be dealt with in the proper context and forum.” On December 19, 2018, we provided a copy by email attachment of this application to Service Inspired Restaurants and filed the application online as well, in a shortened version of this full application.
Nature of this application
This application has nothing to do with the treatment of animals and whether they should be treated better. A largely known approach, also known as a welfarist approach, is a danger in that it advances the idea that animals can be raised and slaughtered humanely, or that ever so slight increases in welfare are desirable as an objective. Ethical veganism outright repudiates those notions. Exploitation is wrong.
Vegans of all types and stripes face an increasingly hostile environment. In the UK, an employment tribunal is about to decide whether veganism should be a “protected characteristic” granting vegans special legal safeguards against discrimination. Jordi Casamitjana is a vegan who says, “For me veganism is a belief and affects every single aspect of my life.” In Australia Michael Dello-Iacovo, the Animal Justice Party candidate in the 2019 NSW state election for the electorate of Heffron, contacted us to advise that one of the long term goals of the party is to establish veganism as an ethical belief and asked about the status in Canada for the OHRC under the ground of Creed. A recent study in March of this year in Scotland revealed that much of the discrimination against vegans in hospitals, education, the workplace, military, and police custody, contravenes UK and European law. Over a decade ago, a survey called "Vegaphobia: disproportionate talk about veganism in British national newspapers" took place in the UK, which examined 397 articles containing the terms "vegan", "vegans" and "veganism". The researchers found that 74.3% of the items are classified as "negatives.” In Toronto, after the protests over Antler Kitchen and Bar, owner/chef Michael Hunter told Joe Rogan during a taping of the popular U.S. podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” that the signage vegans wanted -- “It’s like eco-terrorism, extortion, whatever you want to call it” referring to signage asked to be displayed stating: “Animals’ lives are their right. In their desire to live and capacity to suffer, a dog, is a pig, is a chicken, is a human. Reject speciesism.” Hunter had carved a deer’s leg by the restaurant's window. In his view, it was the last resort: “I just said, ‘Screw it. I’m going to get these people to get out of here,’” Hunter told Rogan. “I thought that that would make them go away.”
On October 24, 2015, Jack Astor's in London, Ontario reportedly “took to the roof to dump a bucket of cold water, followed by a bucket of very hot water, followed by a bucket of vinegar on us, all the while shouting obscenities,” an animal activist said, who was part of the Animal Liberation Alliance London. The vinegar was in an industrial sized bucket and burned their eyes. Another protester said that after she was “doused with hot water, she phoned 911, and while she did so, she was struck by vinegar.” Police determined the protest was legal. Signs were also put up denigrating the activists with terms such as “Stay Dry.” The parent corporation responded a on behalf of Jack Astor's: “We take this seriously and we want to find out exactly what happened,” said Lauren Michell, the vice president of marketing at SIRS Corp, short for Service Inspired Restaurants. The general manager of Jack Astor's said: “We’re doing everything to find out exactly what is involved... people think we don’t care, but that’s not true. We’re trying to figure out who did what, if anything, and get it corrected.”
It is clear that there is hostility toward vegans who are often the butt of jokes.
Welfarism (gradual improvement of conditions for animals) carries a huge problem of incremental “improvements” where animals are consumed and exploited because our societal conscience is appeased.
This is not a complaint about treatment. It is solely to respond to Jack Astor's and to advance the conception of a human rights approach by getting veganism seen and accepted as “Creed,” which, for those of us who live it daily, it is. Jack Astor's does not see veganism as a system of beliefs that inform our lives.
Specifically, vegans, as in the case with other creeds, are not an homogeneous group. Veganism is adopted for a variety of reasons, some religious, others non-religious, still others for environmental beliefs, ethical beliefs, health beliefs, and so on. There is no longer a requirement within human rights law, at all levels in Canada, that Creed be religious in nature. For that reason, this application is broadly speaking, for vegans.
Vegans form an ever increasing number of persons in Canada. Over half are under 35 years of age. The increase in the past 15 years has been over 2.5 times what it was.
Climate change has been identified as being caused by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases emitted. Animal “agriculture” has been determined to be the largest cause of emissions, given deforestation to grow crops to feed animals, methane released by animals, and transportation of animals and parts of animals packaged and turned into products.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission publishes Policies that provide guidance on interpreting provisions of the Code. The OHRC published its first Policy on Creed in 1996 largely based upon religion. However, as it became clear that practices, beliefs and conduct integral to one's life can be non-religious, the OHRC’s new Policy based on Creed was approved on September 17, 2015.
The Policy reformulated “Creed” to include “non-religious belief systems that, like religion, substantially influence a person’s identity, worldview and way of life.”
Ethical veganism is a deeply held belief that governs a vegan’s life and substantially influences the person’s identity, worldview and way of life.
For purposes of non-discrimination, it is obviously discriminatory to single out vegans for unjust or prejudicial treatment.
The Supreme Court of Canada has held that there exists no hierarchy of rights. Creed deserves the same consideration and protection as other human rights.
Section 4 of the Ontario Human Rights Code clarifies the Policy Framework in relation to creed:
The Code does not define creed. Understandings of creed and what are considered creed-based beliefs and practices evolve over time, as do forms of discrimination based on creed…
...this does not mean that people may not differ in how they understand or practice a professed system of belief (see section 9.3.2). Nor need this prevent persons from receiving human rights protections who may have unique or hybrid belief systems…
...the Supreme Court of Canada alludes to the nature of beliefs protected under section 2(a) of the Charter (at para. 97):
The purpose of s. 2(a) is to ensure that society does not interfere with profoundly personal beliefs that govern one’s perception of oneself, humankind, nature, and, in some cases, a higher or different order of being. These beliefs, in turn, govern one’s conduct and practices.
In determining whether ethical veganism is a belief-system based upon Creed, the OHRC has set the criteria under which the question must be addressed.
The OHRC holds that five key considerations should be taken into account when considering whether or not a belief may be protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code grounds, in particular on the basis of Creed. This includes considering whether it is:
- sincerely, freely and deeply held;
- integrally linked to a person’s identity, self-definition and fulfilment;
- a particular and comprehensive, overarching system of belief that governs one’s conduct and practices;
- addresses ultimate questions of human existence, including ideas about life, purpose, death, and the existence or non-existence of a Creator and/or a higher or different order of existence; and
- has some connection to an organization or community that professes a shared system of belief
The OHRC states that:
If uncertainty still exists after considering the above criteria, the overall purpose of the Code and statutory human rights law more generally should be considered. For example, the Preamble to the Code makes clear that the purpose and intent of statutory human rights protections is to recognize the “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”, to ensure that each person has “equal rights and opportunities without discrimination”, and to create a “climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person so that each person feels a part of the community and able to contribute fully to the development and well-being of the community and the Province.”
Protected social areas
Discriminating against vegans, blatantly and in public, is contrary to the requirements under the statute for reasons that the violation occurs in relation to “Goods, services and facilities,” defined as follows:
“You have the right to be free from discrimination when you receive goods or services, or use facilities. For example, this right applies to:
- stores, restaurants and bars
- hospitals and health services
- schools, universities and colleges
- public places, amenities and utilities such as recreation centres, public washrooms, malls and parks
- services and programs provided by municipal and provincial governments, including social assistance and benefits, and public transit
- services provided by insurance companies
- classified advertisement space in a newspaper.
The message is in a public place, subject to view in the municipality, in particular in the City of Toronto, in a highly public area, on City property. It has been disseminated on social media, along with a follow up posting by Jack Astor's, shared widely, and made the subject matter of comments.
It's a very large and extremely prominent billboard.
Billboards are widely regarded as prime advertising, and are often the equivalent of several stories of a building in height.
Billboards carrying slogans are custom designed for long-term exposure. The intent is to create mass market awareness. The purpose is to be viewable from a large distance, and to be seen by residents, persons on public transit, local shoppers, tourists, and on social media. Essentially, it's a towering form of the promotion of a message.
The Jack Astor's billboard is in close proximity to its downtown restaurants. It is located in the Entertainment District, in the area of Front Street West and Simcoe Street.
The corporate entity responsible is Service Inspired Restaurants, with its head office in Burlington, which operates its restaurants under seven name brands, one of which is Jack Astor's, a chain with over 60 locations.
The Jack Astor's message is discriminatory. It is offensive and trivializes the beliefs and conduct of vegans, as well as persons involved in genuine Rehabilitation programmes.
It is caught under provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code in that it falls within the grounds (Creed) of a deeply held belief system, is discriminatory, and is in the protected area (Goods, Services and Facilities) which includes restaurants. It states essentially that vegans can be rehabilitated by eating parts of animals served at Jack Astor's. It is discriminatory against vegans, its staff among whom may be vegans and vegetarians, and vegans who attend its premises, among others who see it in person or on social media. It is also discriminatory against persons who are in Rehabilitation for genuine reasons, arising from illness and addiction and in other ways.
The image and caption
To vegans, an animal (or more precisely, sliced up remains of an animal) is pictured in the large image. This is a living being who was shot by a captive bolt gun, then whose throat was slit including the jugular furrow at the base of the neck, while the animal was alive. The living being was hoisted by a hoof, using a chain, and hanged upside down to bleed out.
The caption, with an arrow pointing upwards to the above, says in capital letters, “Vegan Rehabilitation.”
Bleeding out is caused by severing the carotid arteries and jugular veins. Major blood vessels are severed. If only one carotid artery is cut, the animal takes longer to die, all the while struggling. Slaughter is morally repugnant.
Vegans find these images repulsive. Some describe feelings of revulsion. It is of paramount importance to note that vegans feel as if they cannot eat animals. To vegans (and hopefully others) the image is part of a dismembered animal. Cognitive dissonance, which serves to sever the connection between the animal and the “commodity” does not exist for vegans.
Ethical veganism is not based upon health, environmental, pragmatic, economic, or other considerations or factors, all of which individually or collectively might be good reasons for adopting veganism. It is based strictly on moral or ethical grounds, borne of the Kantian philosophical doctrine that one must act in accordance with the desire that one's actions be universally willed. Veganism rejects commodification of animals in every regard, including to eat, wear, experiment upon, and exploit.
Kant had various formulations of the categorical imperative, among which are:
- Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.
- Act as if the maxims of your action were to become through your will a universal law of nature.
— Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals
To a vegan, the Boss Hogg Burger pictured, specifically, the slaughtered, dismembered, sliced into pieces and grind up animal, is repugnant. Vegans see excruciating pain at the point of slaughter (and suffering beforehand). The degree of suffering is not the germane point. It is the fact of exploitation in the worst possible way: Being raised and destroyed to be consumed. That is the violation in ethical veganism.
Ethical Veganism, it cannot be emphasized enough, rejects an animal welfarist approach, so its key point is not humane treatment or invoking better conditions before slaughter. It is the rejection of exploitation.
The application to the OHRC
If necessary, to respond to the photograph of the Boss Hogg Burger, vegans will use footage of factory farming of pigs and cows and calves, and dairy cows, from the documentaries Earthlings (2005) and Dominion (2018) and photographs taken by Jo-Anne McArthur, purely to show the countervailing images to the photograph and message on the billboard. Offensive photographs and a discriminatory caption will demand a response. Jack Astor's can, if it wishes, take members of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to its suppliers’ factory farms and slaughterhouses to show its side if it thinks the Boss Hogg Burger is Rehabilitation.
Vegans reject and repudiate slaughter of animals, on moral and ethical grounds, religious traditions, cultural norms, health considerations, financial reasons, and environmental and other factors.
We humans, as a species of mammals, only have to picture ourselves in the place of cows and pigs to understand the slaughter industry. However, were there no suffering and “only” exploitation, ethical vegans would nonetheless reject the commodification and exploitation of nonhumans. Ethical vegans reject exploitation of nonhumans on moral grounds, as a moral imperative. Many ethical vegans also accept and adopt other reasons for veganism, be it religious reasons, health reasons or as a response to climate change.
It is not homogeneous. For the purposes of meeting the criteria for acceptance as “Creed,” it does not have to be. Ethical veganism can accept other reasons. The moral imperative is primary.
“Rehabilitation” a serious word -- not a concept to be diminished and denigrated -- and one which conveys hope for people who are addicted to substances of various types, including alcohol and drugs, and food, should not be used or diminished in this context, as it has by Jack Astor's.
CAMH states that “the disease burden of mental illness and addiction in Ontario is 1.5 times higher than all cancers put together and more than 7 times that of all infectious diseases.” (Ratnasingham et al. (2012). Opening eyes, opening minds: The Ontario burden of mental illness and addictions. An Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences / Public Health Ontario report. Toronto: ICES.)
People who choose Rehabilitation take a big step forward in their lives and should be encouraged. The discriminatory caption in the impugned image about “Vegan Rehabilitation” conveys just the opposite.
“Rehabilitation” is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as:
- The action of restoring someone to health or normal life through training and therapy after imprisonment, addiction, or illness.
In other words, “Rehabilitation,” in belittling vegans, is used to describe, presumably, those of us who have made a conscious decision not to eat animals. Vegetarians, it seems, while also not eating animals, do not require Rehabilitation. Jack Astor's specifically isolates vegans as its target.
The depiction, (which is of course more than a “depiction” as it's a photograph), is of -- at the core -- parts of a ground up animal. That animal was dismembered. Her body -- perhaps a spent dairy cow/”beef” or hers a sow/”bacon” or his a calf/”veal” was then ground up. The cheese in the picture is the result of keeping a dairy cow pregnant, inseminated on what's sometimes known as a rape rack, milked multiple times daily, separated from her calves almost immediately after giving birth, and then slaughtered at a fraction of her natural lifespan.
“Rehabilitation” has also been defined as:
- The action of restoring someone to former privileges or reputation after a period of disfavour.
The insinuation under this definition is that vegans need somehow to be restored to former privileges or reputation. In other words, vegans have lost their privileges or reputation. In addition, “after a period of disfavour” implies also that vegans were out of favour or not supported, preferred, or highly regarded by any person, any longer.
“Rehabilitation” has also been defined as:
- The action of restoring something that has been damaged to its former condition.
In other words, the implication is that vegans are somehow damaged and need to be restored to the former condition of exploiting animals, no matter the moral conviction, belief system, religious reasons, and other reasons, be it health, environmental, or simply preferring to live a life without harming other individuals, indeed ethical veganism.
The World Health Organization in 2015, classified red meat as Group 2A, “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
In the case of red meat, the classification is based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer as well as strong mechanistic evidence.
Limited evidence means that a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer but that other explanations for the observations (technically termed chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out.
Processed meat was classified as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans.
This category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. In other words, there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. The evaluation is usually based on epidemiological studies showing the development of cancer in exposed humans.
In the case of processed meat, this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.
There is absolutely no scientific proof that eating animals is necessary for health. In fact, to the contrary, our rates of cardiovascular disease, and of cancer, in Canada are high, as is our consumption of animals. There are also direct results, including the listeriosis outbreak that killed more than twenty Canadians and made many others ill, and any number of other food borne illnesses.
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, an estimated 206,200 new cases of cancer and 80,800 deaths from cancer occurred in Canada in 2017. The number of estimated new cases does not include non-melanoma skin cancer cases.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths.
In 2017, an estimated 206,300 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer and 80,800 Canadians died from cancer.
Lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are the most common types of cancer in Canada (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer).
The World Health Organization concluded that “the strongest, but still limited, evidence for an association with eating red meat is for colorectal cancer.” In addition, it stated there is also evidence of links with pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.
However, in relation to processed meat, the IARC Working Group concluded that “eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” An association with stomach cancer was also seen, but the evidence is not conclusive.
About one in twelve Canadians over twenty years of age live with diagnosed heart disease. That is 2.4 million Canadians. It is the second leading cause of death among Canadians. Every hour, twelve Canadians age twenty and over with diagnosed heart disease, in fact die. The death rate is three times higher among adults age twenty and over with diagnosed heart disease versus those without, four times higher among adults age twenty and over who had a heart attack vs those without, and six times higher among adults age forty and over with diagnosed heart failure versus those without. The rate is based on data from 2012/13 data from Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System (CCDSS).
“Heart disease is a general term used to refer to several diseases of the heart and blood vessels. In Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death and accounted for over 51,500 deaths in 2015.”
The indisputable scientific evidence is that the causes include consumption of saturated fat, as in reality, is depicted in the Jack Astor's Bar & Grill advertisement. In fact, a Jack Astor's Boss Hog Burger is described on its menu:
The Boss Hog Burger
Fresh Angus ground beef topped with melted cheese, jalapeño cheddar sausage, bacon, crispy beer-marinated onions, spiked ketchup, and Jack’s Everything sauce. Served with your choice of side.
Jack Astor's fails to provide nutritional information. It is respectfully requested that Jack Astor's be required to disclose same so that it can be compared to meals vegans choose. That would allow us to properly assess the Rehabilitation Jack Astor's thinks we need.
Vegans do not require Rehabilitation. Nor do we want the artery clogging, cruelty based meals, consisting of sliced up dismembered animals.
Many vegans spend a great deal of time and effort promoting veganism for a variety of reasons: moral, ethical, health and environmental are a few. Ethical veganism is the moral reasoning that many vegans, individually and collectively, subscribe to and which governs their lives and informs their worldview.
The applicants, on behalf of themselves and other ethical vegans similarly situated, hold their beliefs sincerely, as integral to their life and self-identity in that they do not exploit animals. They are vegan as an overarching principle in life, and in both conduct and practice are so, as a matter of life's purpose. They are against speciesism, actively promote veganism in almost every facet of life, including through organizations, websites, writing and in other ways. They meet the definition under the ground and Policies provided by the OHRC.
The applicants hold that Speciesism is a form of discrimination based on species membership.
Animal rights arguments see speciesism as akin to racism and sexism. Arbitrary distinctions and characteristics are rejected as the sole basis for discrimination. In speciesism, just as in racism or sexism, the treatment of individuals is predicated on group membership and morally irrelevant physical differences. Vegans are anti-speciesism and do not believe that species membership is a defining characteristic, such that members of any one species have greater moral value than members of another.
The term “Speciesism” arose in 1970. It was coined by British psychologist, Richard D. Ryder.
Ryder stated that:
… since Darwin, scientists have agreed that there is no 'magical' essential difference between humans and other animals, biologically-speaking. Why then do we make an almost total distinction morally? If all organisms are on one physical continuum, then we should also be on the same moral continuum.
Speciesism is regarded as the reason for human animals considering other animals as commodities, for food and use.
The applicants bring this application on behalf of vegans, who are, inclusively, ethical vegans, AND vegans for other reasons, be it environmental, ecological, economic, cultural, religious, non-religious, health and otherwise. Vegans do not necessarily distinguish a basis and commonly refer to the group, as “vegan,” and to one another, as “vegans.”
The applicants wholly rejects the insinuation that there is something about being vegan that requires Rehabilitation, and are offended and shamed by the insinuation that a photograph of a slaughtered animal, dismembered, sliced and ground up -- who once shared much of our life experience of the world and suffering -- is conveyed in a despicable manner which is used to denigrate and demean not only vegans but also in fact persons genuinely involved in Rehabilitation programmes.
Extension of veganism
The applicants extend this application on behalf of all vegans as a group. It is cumbersome and unwieldy to define “ethical veganism” rather than veganism as the sole basis for Creed. Indeed it is inaccurate because of the variety of reasons to go vegan, many of which overlap.
Vegans are increasingly adopting veganism as their core belief for a number of reasons. Veganism is a system of beliefs and an identifying factor for vegans. It is the basis of our system of beliefs as a Creed.
Veganism rejects the discriminatory assertion that there is a requirement for Rehabilitation simply for those who adopt a lifestyle of non-exploitation, inspired by concern for our fellow creatures.
Jack Astor's is discriminatory in that it treats veganism, our Creed, as if veganism and its advocates need Rehabilitation from addiction, disease, and disfavour. It characterizes this discriminatory action on a prominent billboard in a densely populated and well travelled location, in close proximity to one of its restaurants but also in regard to every vegan in Canada and globally as a group. It repeats its discriminatory assertions in its statement on social media.
Jack Astor's will no doubt say that the message is intended as light-hearted. The animals whose heart was stopped, whose throat was slit, whose life was harsh and cruel, who once shared our world, would say otherwise. There is no ethical basis to cruelty and exploitation.
There is non-discriminatory basis to attack us.
Branding us, disparaging and denigrating us, we are discriminated against in public by you and in your restaurants where you believe serving us what we refuse to consider food is Rehabilitation, and you have obfuscated and denigrated veganism and us. We repudiate your message and respectfully request that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario find that you have violated the law in Ontario.
The message, having been placed on social media, is public ad infinitum. This application should proceed even if the original sources are removed. It has been shared on social media and even garnered additional responses from Jack Astor's itself, its customers and former customers.
Does the follow up “undo” the discriminatory conduct?
Jack Astor's has posted a follow up on Facebook.
Even though the message in the follow up post on December 10, 2018, says “...no, veganism is not something that needs rehabilitation” -- whereas the message states “VEGAN REHABILITATION” -- directing the attack at every single VEGAN, (not at generally speaking, veganism), the follow up is also discriminatory.
The follow up perpetuates and promotes and reinforces stereotypes, and makes derogatory statements, among which are:
- vegans constitute a “Very Vocal Vegan Demographic” (victim shaming)
- vegans lack iron (“not getting enough iron,”)
- vegans are, as a group, “environmentally conscious” (not vegan for moral/ethical reasons)
- “we understand if you would like to continue leaving us with negative feedback to teach us a lesson” (victim blaming)
- vegans should rather provide “meatless” (note: not vegan) recipes than leaving negative feedback
- “our unsolicited suggestion is if that you are planning on sending us feedback, that you also take a little time to send a meatless recipe to a friend who may not know where to begin when it comes to your lifestyle” (trivializing)
- the implication that being meatless is vegan (and denying vegans their ethical ground, and the moral basis of being cruelty-free)
- the singling out of “may not know where to begin when it comes to your lifestyle” (as in singling it out as a lifestyle choice and solved by sending a recipe)
- offending and belittling vegans by reference to “free range” (the alleged humane meat industry concept, anything but vegan)
- going meatless one day a week, a flexitarian diet or reducetarian diet, a non vegan concept -- (“a good place to start is by making an effort to cut back on at least one meal that includes meat” ad from a typical week. Which we agree sounds manageable”)
- it states: “instead of perpetuating the culture of over-meat-consumption that got us into this mess” whereas nothing except Jack Astor's own discrimination against vegans caused this prejudicial behaviour
- the light hearted, flippant tone, and trivialization of vegans.
There are three incidents by Jack Astor's and Service Inspired Restaurants against vegans
- The London, Ontario incident, resulting in criminal charges of three employees
- The billboard message involving VEGAN REHABILITATION
- The follow up post
The following Remedies are respectfully requested from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
Jack Astor's has been involved in three discriminatory events against vegans. In 2015 it was involved in an event surrounding assault charges brought against three employees for dousing animal rights activists with buckets of water, vinegar and tobasco, from the rooftop of a restaurant in London, Ontario. In 2018 it promulgated a message of VEGAN REHABILITATION, then a follow up post on social media attacking vegans and promoting stereotypes. Service Inspired Restaurants made apologies in 2015 and spoke of training. Obviously, a remedy including monetary compensation is now called for. This is a large restaurant owner and operator.
- Service Inspired Restaurants, in consultation with the applicants herein, will establish a Foundation for students and make a total of five yearly awards of $1,500 each, every year, for a fifteen year period, to a project promoting “Ethical Veganism and Anti-Speciesism,” and other sustainability and animal rights themes, beginning in 2019, by high school students in Ontario;
- Service Inspired Restaurants will provide compensation in an amount to be determined by the OHRC, in consultation with the applicants, to fund a vegan association that will address issues of discrimination, in the proposed amount of $87,500;
- Service Inspired Restaurants shall allocate the sum of $50,000 to assist a vegan organization in drafting materials on veganism in schools, with the goal of implementing choice in cafeterias, and it shall also liaison to develop hiring practices where there is non discrimination against vegans in the workplace;
- Service Inspired Restaurants will reimburse the applicants’ disbursements, cover costs and any expenses, including expert reports and attendances, at the Tribunal, and preparation of materials;
- Remedies, as deemed appropriate and as may be imposed, by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario after a full hearing or an agreement on consent.
- Jack Astor's will include a link to a copy of this online application, on its website, for a five year period (along with the full application hand-delivered to the Ontario Human Rights Commission);
- Jack Astor's will include a link on its website to a copy of the decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario when completed;
- A vegan Group or Association will be appointed to consult as a liaison for a five year period with Service Inspired Restaurants if it uses the term “vegan,” “vegans,” or “veganism” in any promotional materials except directly advertising food
Remedy for Future Compliance (Public Interest Remedy)
- Service Inspired Restaurants shall consent to a finding, as a fact, that Veganism is included as Creed under protected grounds for the purposes of this application to the Ontario Human Rights Commission;
- As a model for other restaurants, and inclusive of Goods, Services and Facilities, the Ontario Human Rights Commission will convene a panel to draft Policies that include vegans as a protected group under the protected ground of Creed, without exception, in Ontario;
- Service Inspired Restaurants will develop non-discriminatory policies and procedures in regard to vegans;
- Service Inspired Restaurants will develop internal human rights complaint procedures for persons who work in a restaurant that engages in discriminatory behaviour against vegan customers and employees;
- Service Inspired Restaurants will implement pro-active measures (such as a recruitment policy aimed at eliminating barriers for vegans) among employees and senior management;
- Service Inspired Restaurants will implement education and training programs (such as having management receive training on a human rights policy);
- Service Inspired Restaurants shall publish an extract of the decision in a corporate newsletter or press release, including but not limited to SIR Royalty Income Fund, SIR Royalty Limited Partnership, or SIR Corp.;
- Service Inspired Restaurants shall post the Human Rights Code prominently in all restaurants held and operated by Service Inspired Restaurants, including Jack Astor's, for a five year period
The stated values and promises
“Hospitality: Enhancing the dignity, well-being and comfort of our people”
-- Service Inspired Restaurants
Jack Astor's Bar and Grill also known as Jack Astor's is a chain of restaurants with over 60 locations and situated in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Canada, and New York, corporately owned by Service Inspired Restaurants, which are based out of Burlington, Ontario. It includes seven restaurants under its brands, one of which is Jack Astor's. Others are Reds, Canyon Creek, Duke's Refresher + Bar, Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar, Loose Moose Est. 1989, and Abbey's Bakehouse.
Its head office is located at:
5360 South Service Road, Suite 200
The OHRC has jurisdiction. The Ontario Human Rights Code applies.
This application was served by email attachment with hard copy to follow, on December 19, 2018.