The Public Defender of Rights
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Conditions in education

01. 09. 2016

The Defender was approached by a complainant who studied at a higher vocational school in the field of “Nutritional Assistant”. She claimed that during the lessons, the teachers forced her to taste meat dishes, although they knew she was a vegetarian. The complainant considered the teachers’ pressure unacceptable and she felt she was being discriminated against on the grounds of her world view (i.e. vegetarianism). The Defender has therefore inquired into the question whether vegetarianism is a world view and whether forcing somebody to taste meat dishes could be qualified as indirect discrimination in access to education on the grounds of a person’s world view.

Having inquired into the case, the Defender concluded that vegetarianism can be considered a world view within the meaning of Section 2 (3) of the Anti-Discrimination Act. If a vegetarian refuses to consume meat dishes, this expression of his or her world view can be considered essential within the meaning of Article 9 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. However, this does not mean that the preference must be respected under any and all circumstances.

The Defender approached the Ministry of Education and the Brno University Hospital which informed her that the purpose of tasting all prepared dishes before they are served is to carry out sensory evaluation of their quality and provide safe therapeutic nutrition to clients (of healthcare facilities; it is necessary to evaluate whether or not a dish is suitable and safe). This process is also a part of the curriculum. The Defender therefore believes that compulsory tasting of dishes follows a legitimate purpose, i.e. to ensure safe therapeutic nutrition and appropriate education of students, which is necessary for their work as nutritional therapists; this is in line with the accreditation and practical requirements for the performance of this job. The complainant argued that she did not need to taste the meat, because she had eaten it in the past and, therefore, she knew the taste of meat dishes; she also said she would cook alternative (meat free) dishes. Such arguments, however, are irrelevant to checking the dishes that have been prepared by others. The Defender has, therefore, found the requirement to taste all dishes as appropriate and necessary.

Despite the fact that the complainant’s world view, i.e. vegetarianism, was infringed during her education by the requirement of tasting all dishes, including those containing meat, it did not constitute indirect discrimination within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Act. This requirement is in fact an acceptable form of different treatment within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Act and, therefore, the Defender concluded that no discrimination occurred in the complainant’s case.

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