A landmark case for veganism is taking off in the UK
Jordi Casamitjana says that he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), following his discovery that the company invested its pension funds into firms that are involved in animal testing. Casamitjana brought the information to the attention of his managers, but when nothing was changed, he informed other employees, and was sacked as a result. Although LACS has denied sacking him because of his veganism, there is to be a hearing for Casamitjana in March, and an employment tribunal will, for the first time ever, determine if veganism should be safeguarded.
There has been widespread discussion in the news and employment sectors as to whether ‘ethical veganism’ could and should be recognised as a philosophical belief that is protected by law. Euan Lawrence, employment expert at Blacks Solicitors LLP, says: ‘Mr Casamijana is suing his former employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, for allegedly discriminating against him by dismissing him from employment because of his veganism. Whether or not Mr Casamijana was dismissed because of his veganism is in dispute, and will be contested at a final hearing. However, before the parties get to that stage, there is another question for the employment tribunal to determine at a preliminary hearing: should veganism be considered a philosophical belief of a kind entitling the holder to protection from discrimination?
‘Under UK law, it is illegal to discriminate against employees because of a ‘protected characteristic’ such as the employee’s gender, sexual orientation or disability. One of the protected characteristics listed in the Employment Act 2010 is ‘Religion or Belief’. This term encompasses religious beliefs, and philosophical beliefs, as well as a lack of belief.
‘For a philosophical belief (which is what Mr Casamijana is arguing that veganism constitutes) to be capable of protection under this Act, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has previously directed that it must be a cogent, serious and important belief that the person sincerely holds, that it must be a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour worthy of respect and not incompatible with human dignity (or in conflict with the fundamental rights of other people); and it must go beyond a mere opinion to an article of faith.
‘It seems unlikely that veganism as merely a dietary choice would be found to be a philosophical belief for the purposes of the Act. However, in this case, Mr Casamitjana describes himself as an “ethical vegan”, meaning that not only does he follow a vegan diet, but that he also extends this belief into other aspects of his life, and opposes the use of animals for any purpose, such as wearing wool or leather.
‘In view of the five key criteria set out by the EAT, Mr Casamijana has more than a fighting chance of succeeding with his argument that ethical veganism constitutes a philosophical belief, that he is entitled to be protected from discrimination. It will be interesting to see whether the tribunal agrees with him.’
Sadly, Mr Casamitjana says he has been discriminated against many times because of his vegan beliefs. He says: ‘It is important for all the vegans to know that if they want to talk about veganism, they are protected and no-one will say ‘shut up’. It is important that the law protects vegans.’
We sincerely hope that this case will help non-vegans understand that veganism is not often a mere dietary choice – it is a core belief and vegans deserve equality, the same as the holders of other important beliefs.