Second grade teacher Keith Allison was asked not to return to his teaching job in Smithville, Ohio earlier this year after he posted something about a local business on his personal Facebook page.
What was this post, you ask? It was a picture of veal crates on a dairy farm. Allison, a vegan and animal rights proponent, saw them in plain view as he rode past the dairy on his bicycle and later returned to take the picture, writing alongside it, “As someone who grew up feeling parental love and support, and now as a parent who gives love and support, I reject the claim that separating babies from loving mothers to raise them isolated in boxes can ever be considered humane.”
Veal crates isolate baby male calves from their mothers at birth, severely limiting their movements so that they don’t develop any “unnecessary” muscle mass (these are not the veal crates in question).
As it turns out, Smithville is a largely agriculture community and the private owners of the dairy farm called the school to complain once they caught wind of it.
“I was informed by my superintendent that the family that owns this farm had called and complained about it and expressed that they were upset and frightened about the post,” Allison told Fox8 Cleveland. “The fact that their family’s farm was in the picture, I guess, is where their complaint was coming from and from what I was told, they were fearful, afraid that someone might come and break their calf crates or free their cows and their children were not safe to be out in their yards.”
To be clear, Allison’s post (which has since been taken down) in no way called for such actions. He didn’t attempt to rally the vegan mafia, calling upon them to don their hemp back packs, loaded with tahini, and march on the farm. He made a personal observation about something that anyone passing by could have seen for themselves. The farm was in no way hiding the crates. Yet, stating an opinion about it was some how a terminable offense?
Vegan army, unite!
“During the meeting with my superintendent, I was informed we live in a large agrucultural area, which is true, and that a lot of our money for the schools comes through residents of the community and that I needed to be very careful of what I put on (Facebook) because I might offend the community and the economic interests of the community,” Allison said, “I was also told that I could have any personal beliefs I want to have, but if I want to be a strong vegan advocate, I might want to look into doing something other than teaching.”
As it turns out, this isn’t necessarily a first as far as vegans being let go due to their personal beliefs. In 2007 a vegan art teacher was fired for promoting his beliefs at the school in which he taught. Then, in 2009, a financial trader sued for being fired from his job after enduring slurs relating to his vegetarianism. There are currently no protections in place that explicitly protect vegans under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. While many would argue that veganism and it’s firmly held beliefs are akin to a religion, an area covered by the act, veganism is not formally recognized as a religion. So, basically, if someone dislikes it when you show up to the company potluck with kale salad and plant-based cupcakes (um, that potluck would be so awesome), they can give you the axe.
Along with being a civil liberties issue, this incident is also a microcosm of a larger trend going on between animal activists and the industries they oppose. Discussing the horrors that the meat and dairy industry perpetrate on animals and the environment at large is something those industries do not want people to do, thus the advent of ag gag laws that now make it illegal to expose these horrors to the general public in several states.
In Allison’s case, his actions didn’t occur in his place of employment and he didn’t set foot onto the farm’s property, which is why the ACLU is stepping in to demand Green Local School Board reinstate him based on his right to free speech. Vegan or not, this case is something every person in the country should be watching very closely with the hopes that the ACLU is successful and Allison is vindicated. When the feelings and interests of an industry, any industry, is placed above the constitutional rights of a private citizen, a slippery slope is created for us all. Today, it’s a person who feels the meat and dairy industry is inhumane. What will it be tomorrow?
Lead Image Source: 4 Med Approved