Ethical veganism is a protected characteristic under Equality Act 2010
Following on from a previous article discussing whether ethical veganism could be seen as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 the Norwich Employment Tribunal has today confirmed that it is. The previous article in question followed the case of Mr Casamitjana who claimed that he was discriminated against by his employer, League Against Cruel Sports. Mr Casamitjana was dismissed after disclosing the fact that the League invested pension funds into organisations involved with animal testing, despite the League being advocates for animal rights.
The BBC has just published Judge Robin Postle ruled that ethical veganism satisfies the required test under the Equality Act 2010 for it to be classified as a philosophical belief. The test sets out that the belief must:
- Be genuinely held;
- Not simply be an opinion or viewpoint;
- Be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
- Attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion, and importance; and
- Be worthy of respect in a democratic society, compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.
- Have a similar status or cogency to a religious belief [but need not be] a fully-fledged system of thought.
- Not necessarily be shared by others.
This, therefore, means that ethical vegans will be protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
It must be noted that ethical vegans and vegans are not identical. All vegans eat a plant-based diet that is free from any type of animal product. Ethical vegans have the same diet but also avoid any and all other types of animal exploitation. This will include avoiding buying clothing, furniture, and other household necessities that are either made from the anatomy of an animal or that have been tested on live animals.
Mr Casamitjana adheres to the ethical veganism beliefs, therefore, giving him protection from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. Non-ethical vegans and vegetarians, however, would necessarily not share the same protection from discrimination. As highlighted in a previous article the Norwich Employment Tribunal held that vegetarianism was simply a lifestyle choice and therefore was not accepted as being a philosophical belief.
This decision once again demonstrates the extent to which belief structures are protected in law. Employers are advised to be more conscious and respectful of employees’ beliefs and be aware that such beliefs (whatever they may be) can and quite often are protected by the law.