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.
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
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