In our previous ELU, you will recall that we reported about how the Employment Tribunal (“the ET”) had ruled that vegetarianism was not a philosophical belief and therefore not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 (the “EqA”).
Following on from this, there has been a landmark ruling in the case of Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports in relation to ethical veganism whereby the ET has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and therefore protected under the EqA.
Mr Casamitjana alleged that he was dismissed from his former employer as a result of him being a vegan after he raised concerns and disclosed to other employees that their employer was investing funds in firms who were involved in animal testing. His employer argued that his dismissal was as a result of gross misconduct and was not linked to his ethical veganism.
The ET has not yet ruled on Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal but at a preliminary hearing earlier this month it determined that his ethical veganism was a protected characteristic because it met the principles required to be a philosophical belief, namely:
- It must be genuinely held;
- It must be a belief and not an opinion or view point based on the present state of information available;
- It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
- It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and
- It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.
During the hearing, the ET heard evidence that demonstrated that Mr Casamitjana’s veganism was deeply rooted in his day-to-day life. As well as following a 100% vegan diet, he does not use products that have been tested on animals; does not wear any clothes that contain animal products; avoids financial products that invest in pharmaceutical companies where animal testing is used; does not keep pets or visit the zoo; he participates in animal protection marches, demonstrations and protests; he avoids social gatherings where non-vegan food is served; and will not live with or date anyone who is not a vegan.
Accordingly, Employment Judge Postle found it “easy to conclude” that Mr Casamitjana’s ethical veganism is capable of being a philosophical belief and therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010.
Although this is only an ET decision, and therefore not binding on any other tribunal or court, this ruling is likely to have a significant impact on future employment decisions as well as other areas of law about what is and what is not a philosophical belief.
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