To me, it is hardly surprising that a tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a protected belief. Under the Equalities Act 2010 beliefs are protected if they meet certain criteria; namely the belief must be genuinely held, it must be a belief rather than an opinion or point of view and it must be about a substantial aspect of human life.
The case was brought by vegan Jordi Casamitjana who claimed he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his ethical veganism. Mr Casamitjana said he was “extremely happy” with the ruling. Ethical vegans try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation from their lifestyle. Not only do they follow a plant based diet but they avoid wearing or buying clothing made from wool or leather or toiletries from companies that carry out animal testing.
The judge, Robin Postle, ruled that ethical veganism qualified as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010 by satisfying several tests, including that it is worthy of respect in a democratic society , it is not incompatible with human dignity and does not conflict with the fundamental rights of others. The judge said “I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.”
Mr Casamitjana’s employers say he was dismissed for gross misconduct although Mr Casamitjana claims he was sacked after disclosing that the animal charity he worked for was investing pension funds in firms involved in animal testing. He drew this to the attention of his employers who apparently did nothing, so he informed other colleagues and was subsequently sacked as a result. A ruling is yet to be made on the actual dismissal.
So whilst the decision to make ethical veganism a protected belief is hardly a shock, what will the effects be? Of course, now employers will have to respect ethical veganism and make sure they do not discriminate against employees for their beliefs. The implications are, however, considerable because the legal protection will apply beyond employment law to areas such as education and the supply of goods and services.
But can an ethical vegan worker on a supermarket checkout now refuse to put a meat product through the till?
Can an ethical vegan boss tell a worker to take their ham sandwich out of the communal fridge?
Interesting times ahead.