January 14, 2020

Tribunal rules that “ethical veganism” is a philosophical belief.

This post was written by: Ilinca Mardarescu

Under the Equality Act 2010, there are a number of “protected characteristics” which form the basis of any discrimination claims.  Many are familiar with discrimination being unlawful on the grounds of race, sex or disability but in fact there are nine protected characteristics with religion or belief being one of them.

Until now, veganism was not considered a “belief” but Norwich Tribunal has now ruled that ethical veganism qualifies.  Judge Robin Postle stated that the belief is worthy of respect in a democratic society and is not incompatible with human dignity nor does it conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

This is an Employment Tribunal ruling only at this stage and therefore is not binding – and could still be appealed. However, the decision has (quite rightly) been described as “potentially significant” by the solicitors acting for Mr Casamitjana.

Mr. Casmitjana brought this case to court following claims that he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports, an Animal Welfare charity. And, it was because of his ethical veganism that he was fired, following a confrontation with the charity who were investing pension funds into firms involved in animal testing.

What is ‘Ethical Veganism?’

The term ethical veganism pertains to more than just a diet of no animal products. An ethical vegan believes in excluding all forms of animal exploitation from their lifestyle, meaning things like clothing, make-up, toiletries and avoiding companies with a history of animal testing.

So what does this ruling mean?

As matters stand, Ethical Veganism is now protected as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. This means that employers may be required to respect ethical veganism and make sure there is no discrimination against the ethical vegan’s beliefs.  How far this will go is yet to be seen.  Employers will be required to watch out for perceived ‘banter’ with ethical vegans on their beliefs or, the use of unethical products within the business.  But this could prove problematic in the catering business for instance.    No doubt this ruling will shape and change the HR landscape within businesses in years to come.