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6th January 2020

Ethical veganism is a protected philosophical belief

6th January 2020

Ethical veganism is a protected philosophical belief

Aleksandra Golat

Posted: 6th January 2020

T: 023 8048 2157

E: Email Me

Case Update on ethical veganism

A short summary judgment in the Employment Tribunal has upheld ethical veganism as a philosophical belief that is capable of protection under the Equality Act.   

Ethical vegans

Dietary vegans eat a plant-based diet but ethical vegans will try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation as far as possible.  Dietary veganism is therefore incorporated into ethical veganism but not vice-versa. 

How to be considered a philosophical belief under the Equality Act

To be considered a philosophical belief under the Equality Act, the belief needs to be:

  • Genuinely held;
  • A belief rather than an opinion or viewpoint;
  • A belief on a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • Have a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion, and importance;
  • Worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity, and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others; and
  • Must have a ‘similar status or cogency to a religious belief’ but need not ‘allude to a fully-fledged system of thought’.

However, the belief does not need to be shared by others.  Beliefs may also be based on science or be part of a political doctrine, however mere support of a political party would not qualify. 

Does vegetarianism meet the requirements of a philosophical belief?

It has previously been held that vegetarianism did not meet the requirements of a philosophical belief as it was found not to concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour, and did not have the required level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion, and importance (Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd and others).  It is therefore possible but unlikely that dietary veganism will in and of itself amount to a philosophical belief. 

It should be noted that the employer did not contest ethical veganism being a protected belief, however is disputing that the employee was dismissed because of his veganism.  This is also a first instance decision so is persuasive but not binding on other Employment Tribunals. 

Jordi Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports

If you would like to discuss any employment issues please contact a member of our Employment Team.

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Aleksandra Golat

Posted: 6th January 2020

T: 023 8048 2157

E: Email Me