- An Ontario firefighter who deployed to British Columbia in 2017 is accusing his employer of violating his human rights by failing to accommodate his vegan diet.
- Adam Knauff, 40, alleged in a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that he was discriminated against, suspended, and ultimately docked pay in 2017 after he stood up for his rights.
- Knauff said he was sent home after he lost his temper one day and poured out his lunch in front of the camp food staff – half of which was non-vegan – and said repeatedly, “This isn’t vegan.”
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An Ontario firefighter who spent 10 days surviving largely on protein bars as he battled wildfires in British Columbia alleges his employer violated his human rights by refusing to cater to his vegan diet.
Adam Knauff, 40, alleged in a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that he was discriminated against, suspended, and ultimately docked pay in 2017 after he lost his temper with his superiors about the lack of vegan options, the Canadian Press first reported Tuesday.
Knauff said in his complaint that he spent days on end helping extinguish the forest fire, working up to 16 hours per day in an intensely physical job while sustaining himself on meals like oatmeal, fruit, and plain bagels.
One day, the only source of protein in his entire dinner was a single black bean, Knauff alleged.
He said in the complaint that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry “failed to accommodate my sincerely held ethical beliefs (creed) when it failed to provide me with food that accommodated my personal commitment to ethical veganism.”
Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry declined to comment on Knauff’s allegations, telling INSIDER the case was an “active litigation file.”
‘I tried to be patient’
Knauff said his employer was aware of his dietary restrictions before he was sent to British Columbia, and that he tried to work with staff throughout his deployment to help accommodate his needs.
He said he even received three blocks of tofu after specifically requesting that personnel buy it during a service run.
But when he gave the tofu to the camp’s chef, he never saw it again, he said in the complaint.
“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,” he said in a statement on his GoFundMe campaign page. “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.”
Knauff hit a boiling point at a barbecue dinner one day, where he was assured vegan burgers would be served, according to the lawsuit. But he cursed at the chef when he saw him handle the vegan patties with the same gloves that touched beef patties. His behaviour prompted a warning from his supervisor.
Finally, the “lack of nourishment took a physical and mental toll” on Knauff, he said in his statement. “I tried to assert my rights.”
Knauff’s complaint said he was sent home after he lost his temper one day and poured out his lunch in front of the camp food staff – half of which was non-vegan – and said repeatedly, “This isn’t vegan.”
‘My beliefs as a vegan should be respected and celebrated, not ridiculed’
“It was incredibly difficult to be sent home, and I still worry about the damage to my reputation,” Knauff wrote on the GoFundMe page. “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.”
Knauff’s case raises questions over whether veganism in Ontario can be considered a “creed,” and therefore protected by the province’s human rights code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, a “creed” doesn’t necessarily refer to religious beliefs, but broader “belief systems that, like religion, substantially influence a person’s identity, worldview and way of life.”
Knauff said that’s exactly what his veganism is.
“My decision not to eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or honey is not merely a dietary preference, it’s a creed,” he said. “Part of a genuine and sincere ethical belief system that humans don’t have the right to exploit, harm, and kill other living beings.”
- Read more:
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- Evidence is mounting that fast-food chains from Chick-fil-A to McDonald’s will be forced to add vegan menu items – or face the consequences
- I’m vegan, and I spend about $US175 a month on groceries – here’s exactly what I buy
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