We are what we eat (sometimes).
I don’t suppose the lawyers who penned the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 dealing with the protected characteristic of “religion or belief” had veganism in mind as they went about their task. But equality law is rarely static. The Equality Act 2010 moves with the times, aided by some creative lawyering.
And so in Veganuary this year it fell to an employment tribunal to consider if ethical veganism came within the Act’s scope.
After losing his job with The League Against Cruel Sports, Jordi Casamitjana brought a claim alleging his dismissal was because of his strongly held belief in ethical veganism. Jordi had raised concerns with his employer after discovering employees’ pension funds were being invested in what he viewed as unethical companies, including those who test on animals.
Jordi’s beliefs go far beyond affecting just his dietary choices; ethical vegans avoid the exploitation of animals as far as possible, avoiding clothing made from wool or leather and shunning products tested on animals.
The job of the employment tribunal was to decide if this ethical veganism amounted to a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010. A belief must satisfy a number of criteria and the tribunal found that Jordi’s was a genuinely held belief, with sufficient cogency and importance to be worthy of protection under the Act.
Whilst the case has widely been reported as a success for vegans across the country, the tribunal made clear the decision was fact specific and it is only the more extreme ethical veganism that is likely to be protected. Nevertheless, an interesting decision in a dynamic area of discrimination law.