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Beyond a belief

Following October 2019’s article Christian Meredith explores whether ethical veganism can trump vegetarianism and qualify as a protected belief.

In October last year we reported on whether vegetarianism could qualify as a ‘philosophical belief’ for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. The notion was dismissed as the Employment Tribunal (ET) did not consider that the belief was a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.

In a recent development, the ET considered whether ‘ethical veganism’ would pass that same threshold and be considered a ‘philosophical belief’. Ethical veganism varies dramatically from vegetarianism in that ethical vegans not only eat a plant-based diet, but unlike vegetarians or dietary vegans, also aim to avoid contact with products that are sourced from any form of animal. This includes not wearing clothing coming from animals such as wool or leather and not using products tested on animals.

In a recent case heard at the ET it was ruled that ethical veganism is capable of being classed as a philosophical belief. This case concerned Mr Casamitjana who claimed he was dismissed by his employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, an animal welfare charity, for raising concerns about the organisation’s pension fund and whether the investments were in keeping with the values of the company.

His employers stated that the dismissal was for gross misconduct not his vegan belief – this issue is yet to be determined (will take place next month). However interestingly the ET stated that Mr Casamitjana’s beliefs could be protected against discrimination. This demonstrated that Mr Casamitjana’s beliefs and his interpretation of veganism comprehensibily met the legal test for establishing whether it could qualify as a protected belief. We shall keep you updated with any interesting and key developments.

Beyond a belief