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Ethical veganism held to be a “philosophical belief”

Employment / 06 January 2020

In a significant ruling, an Employment Tribunal has held that ethical veganism should be protected as a “philosophical belief” under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA).

Jordi Casamitjana claimed that he was unfairly dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sports after he raised concerns that employees’ pension funds were invested in companies involved in animal testing.

Whilst the Employment Tribunal has not yet ruled on his unfair dismissal claim, it has decided on the more critical point for employment law – that ethical vegans (i.e. those that eat a vegan diet but also avoid contact with products derived from any form of animal exploitation) should be protected under the EqA.

The Judge ruled that a belief in ethical veganism was worthy of respect in a democratic society, was not incompatible with human dignity and did not conflict with the fundamental rights of others, saying that “I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief” and therefore satisfied the tests required for it to be protected under the EqA.

As a first instance decision, this ruling will not be binding on other Employment Tribunals. However, it is likely to have significantly shifted the balance in favour of ethical veganism being a protected characteristic where the relevant tests are met. We are therefore likely to see an increase in discrimination claims based on this belief.

It would be prudent for employers to ensure that vegan employees are not put at a disadvantage in the workplace, for example concerning catering facilities or where food is provided at meetings or events or in relation to the provision of benefits.

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