Vegan firefighter who was not offered 'ethical' food while fighting fire in Canada files complaint with Human Rights Tribunal

Vegan firefighter who was not offered 'ethical' food while fighting fire in Canada files complaint with Human Rights Tribunal

A vegan firefighter has reportedly claimed that his human rights had been violated as he was not given suitable food while he was fighting a massive wildfire in Canada over a 10-day period. 

The firefighter Adam Knauff from Kenora in Ontario was one among 1,000 firefighters who worked up to 16 hours a day to help put out a massive forest fire which had started in Northern British Columbia in July 2017. The 40-year-old filed a complaint about the food with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario about his statement on Tuesday, May 21, according to a GoFundMe page. 

Knauff, who had been working with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry since 2008, was eventually suspended after he blew up at the kitchen staff as they did not have vegan food. He had been dispatched out of his usual area to help other firefighters battle the blaze. He worked non-stop for a period of 10 days and claimed that he was given "inadequate" options for vegan food and had to go hungry. 

Adam Knauff was suspended after he blew up at kitchen staff while being deployed to help contain a massive wildfire (Source: GoFundMe)

He revealed that he ate salad and side dishes on one day and then plain bagels and coffee on another day. For his dinner one day, he claims that his single and only source of protein was a "single black bean". According to the Canadian Press, Knauff wrote in his complaint, "After working 16-hour days for four days with inadequate nutrition I began to feel physically ill and mentally groggy."

"Until that point I had been trying to push through my hunger and exhaustion, sustaining myself on nuts and fruits," Knauff added. He further shared a week into the firefighting deployment, a barbeque had been set up for the crew but someone had contaminated the vegan patties with the beef patties. Knauff recalled being given a stern warning by his supervisor after he cussed at the chef. 


"No one seemed to take my ethical beliefs seriously," the firefighter wrote. "I know that I should not have sworn... but I was starving, exhausted, humiliated and defeated. I had reached my breaking point." The following day, he poured his lunch out in front of the food staff saying, "This isn't vegan," and was subsequently suspended for doing so. 

He was sent home for three days without pay and was also banned from fighting fires outside of his usual province until the end of 2018. Knauff shared that his employer was aware of his vegan beliefs and had also filled out a standard food information form before going on the trip. He also started a GoFundMe campaign to get help with his claims. 

The ministry shared that Knauff was disciplined for his "inappropriate, insubordinate, unprofessional and aggressive behavior." According to Knauff's employer, his "vegan status is a sincerely held lifestyle choice" and does not meet the legal definition of creed under Ontario's Human Rights Code. 


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