VEGANS and teetotallers are to be given the same protection against discrimination as religious groups, under legislation championed by Harriet Harman, the equalities minister.
Members of cults and "new religions" such as Scientology, whose supporters include the film stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta, would also be offered protection, as would atheists.
A code of practice explaining the legal implications of the equality bill states that religions need not be mainstream or well known for their adherents to gain protection. "A belief need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but must affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world."
The code, drawn up by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, singles out vegans, who do not eat any animal products or wear leather, as meriting protection from religious discrimination. It says: "A person who is a vegan chooses not to use or consume animal products of any kind. That person eschews the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, accessories or any other purpose and does so out of an ethical commitment to animal welfare."