Somewhat surprisingly, given that a Tribunal recently ruled that it was not possible to be discriminated against for being vegetarian, a different Tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief which is capable of being protected under the Equality Act 2010.
The case concerns a vegan, Jordi Casamitjana who worked for the League Against Cruel Sports. Mr Casamitjana was concerned that his employers were investing in pension funds in firms that were involved in animal testing. He raised his concerns with his boss, and when nothing was done he told his colleagues. Mr Casamitjana claims that he beliefs, and his status as an ethical vegan led to his dismissal which he contends was unfair.
On 2nd January 2020, the Tribunal met for a preliminary hearing to decide whether ethical veganism is a philosphical belief which capable of being protected by the Equality Act. In order to be protected, Mr Casamitjana’s belief in his veganism would have to be akin to a religious belief. Mr Casamitjna gave the evidence that his veganism is something which impacts on his every-day life. He stated that he avoids catching a bus and instead walks to avoid crashes with insects or birds. He also excludes any products made from animal exploitation such as wool, leather and cosmetics involving animal testing.
In the preliminary hearing, it was deemed that the belief was capable of being protected by the Equality Act. Accordingly, the case will proceed to a full Tribunal to decide whether Mr Casamitjana was dismissed as a result of his veganism.
Whilst this case may encourage future litigation around this topic, it should be remembered that the facts surrounding it are unusual. In particular, Mr Casamitjana undoubtedly lived an unorthodox lifestyle as a result of his vegan beliefs, and as in the vegetarian case, any lesser dedication is unlikely to satisfy the test that:
it is a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information;
the belief is genuinely held;the belief concerns a “weighty” and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
it is “worthy of respect in a democratic society”; and
it is held with “sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”
If you consider that you have been discriminated against, or indeed you are an employer dealing with an employee alleging discrimination, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Department