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Is ethical veganism now a protected belief?

28 January 2020

Harriet Gardner

A vegan is someone who does not eat or use any animal products.

Those who choose to follow a vegan diet, maintain a plant-based diet and exclude any animal products such as dairy, meat, honey or fish.

But ethical vegans eliminate all forms of animal exploitation within their lifestyle. For example, ethical vegans wouldn’t buy or use any clothing made of leather or wool. Or for instance, buy toiletries or other products from companies which carry out animal testing.

The Equality Act 2010 protects the following individuals with the following characteristics from discrimination:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Sex and sexual orientation
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnerships
  • Religion and belief
  • Pregnancy and maternity

After a recent tribunal in Norwich, the Employment Tribunal Judge ruled that ethical vegans should receive similar legal protection within a workplace in Britain, as do those with religious beliefs. It qualifies as a philosophical belief following several tests which concluded, “it is worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others”. The Judge added that he is “satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute as a philosophical belief”.

The case was brought to the Employment Tribunal’s attention by Mr Jordi Casamitjana who claimed he was dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his ethical veganism. He claimed that he had disclosed to the animal welfare charity, that the company had invested pension funds in businesses involved with animal testing. According to Mr Casamitjana, after raising the issue to his boss, nothing came of it. He then began exploiting the issue to his colleagues, which he believes led to his dismissal.

It is important that employers are conscious and mindful that a strongly held belief may amount to a philosophical belief capable of protecting an individual against discrimination in their employment.  But the legal protection will apply beyond employment. The solicitor of Mr Casamitjana added, “any abuse directed at ethical vegans might be seen to be harassment, in the same way, a racist or sexist slur might be a discriminatory action”.

If you have any queries regarding discrimination within the workplace, do not hesitate to contact our Employment Lawyer - Harriet Gardner on 0114 3990094 or email her on harriet@taylorbracewell.co.uk.