Legal Issues

Ethical Veganism is a “philosophical belief” under the Equality Act

Jordi Casamitjana’s employment tribunal case in Norwich has today created a stunning legal landmark for veganism. Ethical veganism is, according to judge Robin Postle, a philosophical belief and therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010. 

This judgement, therefore, means that ethical vegans are entitled to protection from discrimination. Vegan discrimination is now officially illegal against those who genuinely subscribe to a non-religious philosophical belief in “ethical veganism”.

Dietary vegans merely eat a plant-based diet. Ethical vegans, on the other hand, take the concept a considerable step further and exclude all forms of animal exploitation form their lives. This means that they do not use products that have been tested on animals and not wearing wool or leather.

The hurdles that the claimant had to pass through were that the belief must worthy of respect in a democratic society, be compatible with human dignity, and not in conflict with the fundamental rights of others. 

The legislation also provides that the “philosophical belief” must be genuinely held, be in relation to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour, and have a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.

Judge Robin Postle said: 

“’I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief” and that it is “important” and “worthy of respect in a democratic society. 

As a matter of fact, the judge ruled that Mr Casamitjana does adhere to the belief in ethical veganism. The former employee of the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) certainly fits the profile of an ethical vegan – it shines through his very actions. He will not even sit on a leather sofa. He has had a long career in animal activism. He is not somebody who is half-hearted in this philosophical belief by any stretch of the imagination.

Ethical Vegan discrimination now officially covered under the Equality Act

After the ruling Jordi Casamitjana said:

“I’m extremely happy with the outcome of this hearing and for the words of the judge who clearly understood what ethical veganism is. I didn’t expect to have a judgement today but the overwhelming weight of the evidence we have provided seems to have been sufficient for the judge to conclude that I’m the ethical vegan I say I am, and that ethical veganism is a protected ‘non-religious philosophical belief’.

“I am not alone. Many people have supported me because they, or their friends, have experienced discrimination for being ethical vegans. Hopefully, from my dismissal, something positive will come by ensuring other ethical vegans are better protected in the future. I really want to thank those who have supported me so far through and I hope others may join them as I haven’t achieved my final target yet.

“Better protection means more vegans will be able to be open about their beliefs. This can only be a good thing for the billions of animals still exploited by humans, an environment under duress and stressed public health.”

Peter Daly, of Slater and Gordon who represented Mr Casamitjana commented:

“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.

Mr Casamitjana has always maintained that the case was primarily aimed at establishing ethical veganism as a philosophical belief, to help others, and not about the precise circumstances of his dismissal by the League Against Cruel Sports.

The success of this part of the hearing for Mr Casamitjana will now give way to the second part of the employment tribunal case. Next up is to decide on whether the League Against Cruel Sports acted lawfully in dismissing the Catalonian for “gross misconduct”.

The real irony is that the case resulted from an animal protection charity investing its pension funds in companies which tested their products on animals. It is hard to imagine a more unenlightened pension investment policy for employees whose primary motivation is to protect animals. Mr Casamitjana blew the whistle on this practice. That was the unexpected chain of events which led to ethical veganism being given the status of a ‘non-religious philosophical belief’.

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Nicholas Orosz

Nicholas is a former City solicitor and Cambridge graduate. He has a long-standing interest in health & nutrition, the environmental movement, green politics & digital publishing. He has always loved crafting words. His transition to a vegan perspective has been gradual and an ongoing process of self-discovery. Contact:
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