Is Veganism a Philosophical Belief?
In March, an employment tribunal will be asked to determine whether veganism can be considered a philosophical belief and, as such, protected by law. A wide range of belief systems have been held to constitute a philosophical belief in the past, including a belief in catastrophic climate change, a philosophy against fox hunting and even a belief in Mediums and their ability to contact the dead. But will veganism similarly be considered to constitute a philosophical belief?
The case concerns Jordi Casamitjana who claims that he was a whistleblower who was dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sports after disclosing that it invested pension funds in companies involved in animal testing. Although the League Against Cruel Sports denies that Mr Casamitjana was dismissed for veganism and says he was dismissed for misconduct, Mr Casamitjana believes that he was discriminated against and so the employment tribunal must now decide if veganism should be protected in law.
Mr Casamitjana describes himself as an ‘ethical’ vegan who takes a holistic approach to veganism, and concerns himself with animals, the environment and his own health. He says he is an ethical vegan because, for him, veganism is a belief that affects every aspect of his life. Religion or belief is one of nine protected characteristics covered by the 2010 Equality Act and it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the grounds of his or her religion or philosophical belief.
There are five criteria which have been identified as being necessary in determining whether or not a philosophical belief can be protected. In order to be protected, the tribunal must consider whether the belief:
- Is genuine
- Is not simply an opinion in relation to particular circumstance
- Is in relation to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
- Attained a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance and
- Was not contrary to the fundamental rights of others.
The case seems to have struck a chord with the public: Mr Casamitjana is looking to fund his legal action through crowd-funding and raised 25% of the amount he was looking to raise on day 1 of his crowd funding campaign.
If veganism is indeed considered to be a philosophical belief, the finding will have far-reaching consequences for vegans in the workplace. It also highlights the need for companies to have effective and well-publicised whistle-blowing policies.
The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.