A screenshot of Adam Knauff’s GoFundMe campaign.

Ontario firefighter crowdfunding for human rights complaint against employer who failed to provide vegan meals

A vegan firefighter from Kenora, Ont., is calling on Canadians to pitch in some spare change for a human rights complaint he filed against his employer, who he claims discriminated against his dietary needs. 

Adam Knauff said that he tried to voice his concerns over not being served vegan food at his basecamp while he was fighting fires in British Columbia in 2017, but was sent home and had his pay deducted for doing so.

Knauff subsequently launched a human rights complaint against his employer — the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry — over the incident and set up his GoFundMe page, with a goal of raising $10,000. 

“For 10 days, I put in long hours in extreme heat and exhausting conditions, working hard to save peoples’ homes from burning,” he wrote on the website. “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.”

Since he created his funding campaign on May 13, Knauff has raised at least $1,690.

Knauff said if he wins the case, it would be a victory for vegans everywhere. 

“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,” he wrote. “Lawsuits are costly and we need your support.” 

In his legal battle, Knauff argues that ethical veganism should be considered a form of creed in Ontario.

In 2015, the Ontario Human Rights Commission updated its policy so that “creed” can also include non-religious belief systems that substantially influence a person’s identity, worldview and way of life. However, the Human Rights Tribunal has not yet ruled on whether ethical veganism applies to the new framework. 

“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,” Knauff wrote.  

Funds raised will help hire expert witnesses to explain ethical veganism to the tribunal, the firefighter said. Lawyers at Animal Justice will also provide the tribunal with perspective on the growth of ethical veganism and the importance of human right protections for ethical vegans. 

Any money that is not used for Knauff’s case will go towards Animal Justice to help other vegans, the GoFundMe page said.