A judge has ruled that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief protected under UK law.
A TRIBUNAL judge has ruled he is “overwhelmingly satisfied” that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and is therefore a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
Jordi Casamitjana said he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports after raising concerns that its pension fund was being invested into companies involved in animal testing.
The 55-year-old, from London, claims he was unfairly disciplined for making this disclosure and that the decision to dismiss him was because of his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.
Jordi Casamitjana, an “ethical vegan,” claims he was dismissed by his employer, animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports, in April 2018 because he informed colleagues that their employer’s pension fund was “being invested in companies that experiment on animals” and non-ethical funds — a claim the charity has rejected.
Ethical vegans not only follow a vegan diet, but also oppose the use of animals for any purpose, such as animal testing.
At an employment tribunal on Friday, judge Robin Postle said he was “satisfied overwhelmingly” that ethical veganism meets the criteria of the Equality Act to qualify as a philosophical belief.
In a short summary judgment, Postle declared that veganism “clearly in my view meets all the criteria; It is a philosophical belief, not just an opinion.”
“It is cogent, serious and important, and worthy of respect in democratic society,” he added.
Casamitjana brought the landmark legal case to court on Thursday, hoping to force a change to Britain’s Equality Act that would see veganism included as a philosophical belief protected from discrimination.
The law, passed in 2010, defines “religion or belief” as one of the nine “protected characteristics,” which include race, sex, pregnancy and maternity and sexuality, making it unlawful for employers to discriminate on those grounds.
For Casamitjana to qualify for protection under the act, his lawyers had to prove that veganism is “a belief and not an opinion,” that it has “a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance,” and that it is “worthy of respect in a democratic society, compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.”
Casamitjana expressed his satisfaction with the judgment.
Speaking after the ruling, Slater and Gordon solicitor Peter Daly, who is acting for Mr Casamitjana, said: “This is a very significant judgment.
“It recognises for the first time that ethical veganism can form protective characteristics under the equality act, therefore ethical veganism can be protected from discrimination.”
He said any abuse directed at ethical vegans “might be seen to be harassment in the same way a racist or sexist slur might be discriminatory action”.
Mr Daly said: “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.”
During the short hearing, Mr Casamitjana was not required to read out any of his statement, which had already been submitted in written form, and was not asked any questions by the judge, his own legal representative or Rhys Wyborn, employment partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, who acted for the League Against Cruel Sports.
Judge Postle, who said he had read much of the written statements on Thursday, said he will provide a full judgment at a later date.
He said: “It [ethical veganism] is not just about choices of diet, but it is about what that person wears, and all aspects of their life seem to be governed by ethical veganism.”
The tribunal will now determine whether The League Against Cruel Sports treated Mr Casamitjana less favourably because of his belief in ethical veganism. The next hearing will be on February 20.
Mr Wyborn said: “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.”
Mr Casamitjana said his belief in ethical veganism could be seen in “almost every aspect” of his life.
In his witness statement he claims to go as far as avoiding holding onto leather straps or sitting on leather seats, and prefers to walk rather than catch a bus in order to avoid accidental crashes with insects or birds.
Speaking after the ruling, he said: “This is a very important ruling for vegans everywhere in the world. That will inspire other vegans in other countries that don’t have that protection to develop cases that will lead to that protection.”
“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.”