Ethical Veganism Is Now A 'Philosophical Belief' Protected Under UK Law
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Following a landmark ruling, ethical veganism is now officially recognised as a 'philosophical belief' protected under UK law.
The first-time ruling comes after 55-year-old Jordi Casamitjana brought a case of unfair dismissal before an employment tribunal.
Mr Casamitjana claims he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his ethical veganism - although his former employer claimed he had been dismissed for gross misconduct.
As a result, the judge, Robin Postle, has ruled ethical veganism should fall under the Equality Act 2010, however is yet to rule on Mr Casamitjana's dismissal.
The tribunal centres on Mr Casamitjana’s claim that he was sacked by the animal welfare charity after disclosing that the organisation invested pension funds in firms involved in animal testing.
After drawing his bosses' attention to the investments, Mr Casamitjana says they failed to act, so he informed colleagues and was sacked as a result.
The League Against Cruel Sports says it is ‘factually wrong’ to link Mr Casamitjana's dismissal to his veganism although it did not argue against ethical veganism - the practise of excluding all forms of animal exploitation from one’s lifestyle - being protected.
In his ruling, Judge Postle said ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief as it satisfies several defining criteria including being ‘worthy of respect in a democratic society’, ‘is not incompatible with human dignity’ and ‘does not conflict with the fundamental rights of others’.
Judge Postle said: "I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief."
Speaking to the BBC outside the tribunal, Mr Casamitjana said: "I'm really, really satisfied and I hope all the vegans out there that have been supporting me - there have been many helping me in my crowdfunding - I hope they now feel their little donation has been properly used and all the vegans will benefit."
He added: "Veganism is a philosophical belief and when you look at my life and anybody else's life who is an ethical vegan, you will see it. This is a positive belief, it's not a negative belief. And therefore a positive belief is bound to be protected.”
The solicitor acting on behalf of Mr Casamitjana, Peter Daly, said the consequences of the judgement for companies that employ vegan staff are ‘potentially significant’ and that any abuse directed at ethical vegans could now be regarded as harassment ‘in the same way a racist or sexist slur might be discriminatory action’.
Rhys Wyborn, acting for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "Although an interesting point of law, this hearing was preparation for the real crux of the matter: why Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed.
"In view of its animal welfare value, the League did not contest the issue of whether ethical veganism itself should be a protected belief, with the League maintaining that it's irrelevant to the core reason for the dismissal."
The tribunal must now reconvene to consider whether Mr Casamitjana was the victim of discrimination as a result of his beliefs.
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