My name is Adam Knauff, and I'm a 40-year old vegan firefighter from Kenora, Ontario. I'm suing my employer for discriminating against me. They refused to provide me with appropriate vegan food while I was in the field, fighting fires in a remote location. When I stood up for my rights, my employer sent me home, punished me, and suspended me without pay.
Now, I'm asking for your help. If we win this case, it will be groundbreaking. It could set a new legal precedent that ethical veganism is protected as a "creed" under Ontario's Human Rights Code. I have an excellent lawyer, and we are supported by Animal Justice
, a non-profit legal organization that has spent years fighting to protect vegans like me from discrimination. But lawsuits are costly, and we need your support to win this victory on behalf of vegans everywhere.
Here's my story. I'm a forest firefighter and Crew Leader with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. In the summer of 2017, I was sent to Williams Lake, B.C. to help put out the forest fires that were raging in northern B.C. For ten days, I put in long hours in extreme heat and exhausting conditions, working hard to save peoples' homes from burning. But during this time, there was a severe lack of vegan food in the basecamp where I was stationed.
Sometimes, they served me food with meat and dairy products, which I couldn't eat. Other days, they had no vegan food at all to serve me, and I had to survive on protein bars. On the few occasions when there was vegan food, it was nutritionally inadequate and had no source of protein.
I've been vegan for over 20 years, and was vegetarian for many years before that. I know I can live happily and healthfully on this planet without killing fellow animals, and I want no part in hurting animals for food or any other reason.
I'm an easygoing person, and I tried to be patient. I spoke with staff and management to explain what I could eat, but nothing changed. I still wasn't being fed, and the lack of nourishment took a physical and mental toll on me. I finally became frustrated after ten days of inadequate nourishment, and I tried to assert my rights. Instead of respecting my beliefs and providing me with vegan food, my bosses were rude and hostile. They sent me home to Ontario, and punished me by docking my pay.
It was incredibly difficult to be sent home, and I still worry about the damage to my reputation. I love my job, but no one deserves to be treated this way simply because they don't want to harm animals. My beliefs as a vegan should be respected and celebrated, not ridiculed.
Ontario human rights law outlaws discrimination on the basis of "creed", and that's exactly what my beliefs are. My decision not to eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or honey is not merely a dietary preference, it's a creed—part of a genuine and sincere ethical belief system that humans don't have the right to exploit, harm, and kill other living beings.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has not officially yet ruled on whether ethical veganism is a form of creed, so my case could be groundbreaking. Until recently, creed was thought to be the same as religion. But in 2015, the Ontario Human Rights Commission overhauled its creed policy
, stating, "Creed may also include non-religious belief systems that, like religion, substantially influence a person’s identity, worldview and way of life."
My case could be the one to officially rule that ethical veganism is a protected creed in Ontario. This will help other Ontario vegans who face discrimination, and the ruling could be influential in other provinces and internationally.
Your support will help us afford to fight the case, including hiring expert witnesses to explain ethical veganism to the Tribunal, and the belief system behind it. The lawyers at Animal Justice will also request to intervene in Mr. Knauff's case, to provide the Tribunal with perspective on the growth of ethical veganism, and why it's important for ethical vegans to benefit from human rights protections.
Thank you so much for supporting my case. Any funds not used will go to Animal Justice and be used to help other vegans who face discrimination.