BRITISH COLUMBIA, March 16, 22023 (BIV): Looking for a place to live in the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia can be a strange ordeal, with would-be renters forced to navigate things like small space “luxury rentals,” rentals with bizarre requirements, or a “closet-turned-room” for hefty prices. Among potential hurdles faced by home hunters in the region are rentals barring all but vegetarian tenants. A New Westminster Craigslist ad is typical of such listings: The ad is among the many aimed at vegetarian tenants exclusively. But while such ads have drawn criticism on social media by those who see them as unwarranted discrimination, the practice of renting to vegetarian tenants often stems from deep cultural and religious beliefs as opposed to just dietary preferences.

Across B.C., 83,860 identify as Buddhists and 81,320 as Hindus. While not all adherents are practicing vegetarians, Buddhism and Hinduism are the major religions most closely associated with vegetarianism. For many Hindus in India, vegetarianism is a way of life based on the concept of ahimsa (non-violence and no injury to any living creature). Author and cook Adiraja Dasa notes the ancient Indian code of law: “Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, let one therefore shun the use of meat.” With the first bite of prepared food offered to the Deity as “prasaāda,” many Hindus sharing this belief not only follow a vegetarian diet, they also take care to keep their household meat-free. Landlords, especially of Indian descent around the world, look for vegetarian tenants to keep their environment meat-free while they rent their homes.

For renters, protection against discrimination is addressed in Section 10 of the B.C. Human Rights Code. When shown the Craigslist ad calling for “vegetarians only,” Laura Track, lawyer and BC Human Rights Clinic director, said, “I don’t think this ad would violate the Human Rights Code as it doesn’t appear to engage a protected characteristic.” “Vegetarianism is not protected in the Human Rights Code,” she explained. “A landlord can’t discriminate on the basis of religion, but I’d be hard pressed to think of any religion that contains a requirement to eat meat. And if the landlord will be sharing a kitchen, bathroom, or living space with a tenant — a situation where a vegetarians-only requirement might be most likely — then the Code doesn’t apply to the situation at all.” Track noted that a non-vegetarian excluded from a rental on the basis of diet can not make a human rights complaint because meat eating is not protected under the law.