Ethical veganism is a protected characteristic

An Employment Tribunal has made a preliminary finding that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief capable of attracting protection from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

In this case, the Claimant, Jordi Casamitjana, argued that his ethical veganism amounted to a protected characteristic (specifically that of religion or belief) under the Equality Act 2010. According to Section 10(2) of the Equality Act 2010 “belief” means “any religious or philosophical belief and a reference to belief includes a reference to a lack of belief” and hence, the Claimant argued, could include veganism.

Employment Judge Postle agreed that ethical veganism satisfied the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief capable of protection under the Equality Act 2010.

In arriving at his decision Employment Judge Postle would have sought guidance from paragraph 52 of the Explanatory Notes of the Equality Act 2010 which provides that:

The criteria for determining what is a “philosophical belief” are that it must be genuinely held; be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available; be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour; attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and be worthy of respect in a democratic society, compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others. 

He alleged that he was unfairly dismissed by his employer, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), an animal welfare charity after he raised concerns with colleagues that LACS’ pension fund invested in companies involved in animal testing.

Interestingly, this finding follows an earlier decision by Employment Judge Postle in Conisbee v Crossley Farms Limited & Ors in which he held that vegetarianism was not capable of constituting a “belief” for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. It would therefore appear that a distinction (from an employment law perspective at least) may be drawn between vegetarianism and ethical veganism, the latter belief system extending beyond merely avoiding animal-based foods to include trying to avoid contact with products derived from any form of animal exploitation.

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