Ethical veganism is a belief protected by law, tribunal rules

Man sacked by League Against Cruel Sports told he is entitled to equality protections

An employment tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief that is protected by law against discrimination.

The ruling came in a case brought by Jordi Casamitjana, who claims he was unfairly sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), an animal welfare charity, after he raised concerns with colleagues that its pension fund invested in companies involved in animal testing.

The ruling by a tribunal in Norwich does not settle Casamitjana’s claim to have been unfairly dismissed, but lays the ground for a substantive hearing. He said he was extremely happy with the outcome “and for the words of the judge, who clearly understood what ethical veganism is”.

Ethical vegans, like dietary vegans, eat a plant-based diet, but ethical vegans also try to avoid contact with products derived from any form of animal exploitation. It includes not wearing clothing made of wool or leather and not using products tested on animals.

“I am not alone. Many people have supported me because they, or their friends, have experienced discrimination for being ethical vegans,” Casamitjana said after the ruling. “Hopefully, from my dismissal, something positive will come by ensuring other ethical vegans are better protected in the future.”

Judge Robin Postle ruled in a short summary judgment that ethical veganism satisfied the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act 2010. For a belief to be protected, it must meet a series of tests including being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not being incompatible with human dignity, and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others.

Casamitjana’s solicitor, Peter Daly, an employment lawyer from Slater and Gordon, said ethical veganism was “a philosophical belief held by a significant portion of the population in the UK and around the world”.

“This was the first of a two-part employment tribunal,” he said. “Now the question of ethical veganism has been determined by the judge, the litigation will move on to determine the lawfulness of Jordi’s treatment by the League Against Cruel Sports.

“The recognition of ethical veganism as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 will have potentially significant effects on employment and the workplace, education, transport and the provision of goods and services.”

Rhys Wyborn, an employment partner at Shakespeare Martineau, who acted for the LACS, downplayed the significance of the ruling. “Although an interesting point of law, this hearing was preparation for the real crux of the matter: why Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed,” he said.

“In view of its animal welfare value, the league did not contest the issue of whether ethical veganism itself should be a protected belief, with the league maintaining that it’s irrelevant to the core reason for the dismissal.

“The league is now looking ahead to the substantive hearing in this case and to addressing the reason for Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal, which it maintains was due to his misconduct and not the belief he holds.”

Dr Jeanette Rowley, a legal expert with the Vegan Society, said: “It’s a fantastic day for animals and it’s a fantastic day for vegans who should get more institutional support [whether] in hospitals or in schools … The outcome is the right decision logically, sensibly, and it’s the only rational decision that we could have had.”

Any precedent set by the ruling could prove difficult for businesses, according to Helen Crossland, a partner at Seddons, who was not involved in the case.

“Employers always run the risk of an employee claiming that discrimination is a factor in their dismissal, such as here,” she said. “Unless overturned on appeal, employers should expect to see legal protection extended to other beliefs, particularly as they become more established in society.’


Damien Gayle

The GuardianTramp

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