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Veganism – philosophical belief

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BY Scott O'Connor
Employment law

Is veganism a philosophical belief? That is the question for an Employment Tribunal (ET) to decide. Mr Jordi Casamitjana is claiming that he was discriminated against after he was sacked from his job at the League Against Cruel Sports on account of him being vegan. This may come as a surprise to many people; however upon reading the wording of the legislation, taking into account the judicial guidance on what amounts to a philosophical belief and looking at previous case law it is not difficult to see why veganism satisfies the requirements of the legislation.

The Equality Act 2010 sets out nine protected characteristics that provide protection to individuals from unlawful discrimination. Religion or philosophical belief is one of the characteristics protected in the legislation. To be able to qualify as a philosophical belief certain conditions must be met, these are that:

  • The belief must be genuinely held;
  • It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint 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, and compatible with human dignity and the fundamental rights of others.

Simply being a vegan in and of itself would not amount to being a philosophical belief, however Mr Casamitjana’s case rests on the fact he is an ‘ethical vegan’ which is more than simply eating a vegan diet. He rests his belief on not just his health but caring for the environment and animals, which is something he claims affects every aspect of his life. If the belief of being vegan is borne out of an ethical commitment to animal welfare then it could very be covered by the protection afforded under the Equality Act.

Due to previous case law it is quite probable that the ET will conclude that this will qualify as a philosophical belief and attain protection from the Equality Act, it will be interesting to see how the ET assess this case in the spring.

This case is an interesting reminder that the Equality Act can cover a wide range of issues to protect against discriminatory behaviour, so far this year the Glasgow ET has held that it is possible to hold a belief in Scottish Independence. If you are unsure of what could be covered under the Act get in touch with your dedicated employment solicitor for further information.

 

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