UK Court Rules ‘Ethical Veganism’ a Philosophical Belief in Discrimination Case

Lindsay Rajt (R) and Ashley Rose (L) of PETA, dressed in lettuce bikinis and known as a 'Lettuce Ladies,' hand out free Subway vegan sandwiches to promote eating vegan outside a Subway store in Washington, DC, December 1, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty …
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

A British employment tribunal has ruled that “ethical veganism” is a philosophical belief and should be protected by law from discrimination.

The ruling came about during a case brought by ethical vegan Jordi Casamitjana, who claimed that he was fired by his employer, the League Against Cruel Sports, because of his lifestyle preference.

While vegans abstain from eating any animal products — including meat, dairy, and even honey — ethical vegans attempt to exclude all forms of using animals or their products, including avoiding products tested on animals or clothing made of leather or wool.

In this case, Mr Casamitjana claimed he was fired for disclosing to staff that the company’s pension fund was investing in firms that undertake animal testing. The League Against Cruel Sports, which as the name suggests is an animal rights charity, said that the former employee was sacked for gross misconduct and that his veganism had nothing to do with it.

Judge Robin Postle is yet to rule on Casamitjana’s dismissal, but said ethical veganism counts as a “religion or belief” protected under the Equality Act 2010, and that it was “important” and “worthy” of respect in a democratic society, as defined by the criteria of the law.

“I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief,” Judge Postle said from the tribual court in Norwich, according to the BBC.

Mr Casamitjana’s lawyer Peter Daly said that the ruling will have a “potentially significant” impact, saying that perceived hateful comments directed at ethical vegans “might be seen to be harassment in the same way a racist or sexist slur might be discriminatory action”.

BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman said that while the ruling has no binding legal precedent, it could open doors to other court challenges against other employers or educators, suggesting that climate change fanatics could attempt to have their philosophical beliefs protected from discrimination.

Journalist Toby Young pointed out the hypocrisy of one British judge ruling that ethical veganism was a belief worthy of respect in modern Britain while another ruled that believing there are two, unchangeable genders is not.

Mr Young said: “So ‘ethical veganism’ is a ‘philosophical belief’ protected by the Equality Act, but believing in the biological reality of sex is not. I don’t think case law is going to do the job of clarifying what beliefs are and aren’t protected by the Equality Act. [It] needs to be amended.”

In December, another judge in an employment tribunal ruled against a woman who claimed she was discriminated against and subsequently fired for tweeting that “men cannot change into women”.

Judge Taylor argued that tax specialist and feminist Maya Forstater was not afforded rights under the Equalities Act 2010, and her dismissal from the Centre for Global Development was legal, saying that her belief “is incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others”.

“If a person has transitioned from male to female and has a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), that person is legally a woman. That is not something [Ms Forstater] is entitled to ignore. [Ms Forstater’s] position is that even if a trans woman has a GRC, she cannot honestly describe herself as a woman. That belief is not worthy of respect in a democratic society,” Taylor said.

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