Ethical veganism is a protected belief, rules Employment Tribunal

4 January 2020 by

Ethical veganism goes beyond dietary requirements to embrace an entire life philosophy

Casamitjana v The League Against Cruel Sports (judgment pending)

In what multiple commentators have hailed as a landmark legal case, Norwich Employment Tribunal found that the Claimant’s “ethical veganism” is a philosophical belief and therefore a protected characteristic for the purposes of section 10 of the Equality Act 2010 (“s.10”) following a preliminary hearing on 2nd and 3rd January 2020. 

The judgment is unlikely to be available for some time, so it is not yet possible to analyse the Tribunal’s reasoning, but the Hearing Bundle and Claimant’s Written Submissions of Claimant’s Counsel have been made available online by his solicitors which gives a clear indication of how the issue may have been decided.

Background

The Claimant, Mr Jordi Casamitjana Costa, is an ethical vegan, which means he not only follows a vegan diet but also opposes the use of animals for any purpose. The Respondent, The League Against Cruel Sports, is an animal welfare charity that campaigns against sports such as fox hunting, stag hunting and hare coursing.

The Claimant was engaged by the Respondent from 2004 — 2007, and then again from 29 August 2016 — 6 April 2018.

Whilst employed by the Respondent, the Claimant made enquiries regarding the Respondent’s pension funds and concluded that they were invested — in his view — unethically, as money was going into companies which harm animals. This offended the Claimant’s beliefs and he took steps to ensure that his contributions were invested in an alternative “ethical” fund. Counsel for the Claimant submitted that he also believed his discovery would likely similarly offend the beliefs of his colleagues, whom he suspected were unaware.

As such, the Claimant sent a number of emails to colleagues. Particularly significant was an email sent to all of the Respondent’s staff (see pp. 277-283 of the Hearing Bundle) notifying them of his discovery, the steps he had taken to “change [his] fund” and attached a table of his own creation containing 10 types of fund choices and setting various personal opinions.

In their Grounds of Response at [46], the Respondent submits that the Claimant’s emails “give financial advice in breach of an express, and repeat instruction given to the Claimant not to do so.”

In light of this, the Claimant was dismissed by the Respondent for gross misconduct. He now pursues complaints, inter alia, of indirect discrimination, direct discrimination or harassment and victimisation by reference to his belief in ethical veganism. In particular, he relies on a line in the Respondent’s dismissal letter which stated

Based on your understanding and belief, if given the opportunity, you will act in the same way … I consider the email you sent to staff biased because of your ethical principles and could influence them to change their pension arrangement.

Ethical Veganism

Veganism, according to the Vegan Society, “is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

The philosophy of “ethical vegans” can be clearly distinguished from “health vegans” who choose dietary veganism for reasons related to individual health. In the written submissions at [14], counsel for the Claimants explained that ethical veganism is different because

at its heart lies a moral imperative, namely the recognition of non-human animals as sentient beings it is morally wrong to exploit or harm.

Protected characteristic?

A prerequisite for the Claimant’s case to succeed is for his ethical veganism to be a protected characteristic for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. This was the matter in issue at the preliminary hearing.

The Act provides protection against discrimination based on certain characteristic, referred to collectively as the “protected characteristics”. Race, sex, sexual orientation and age amongst other traits qualify for such protection. Critically to the present case, section 10 protects against discrimination based on “religion or belief.” The definition of ‘belief’ is wide, encompassing any religious belief, any philosophical belief or even a lack of belief.

However, some limits to the definition of philosophical belief were established by Mr Justice Burton in Grainger v Nicholson [2010] IRLR 4 at [24], namely that:

  1. The belief must be genuinely held.
  2. It must be a belief and not merely an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.
  3. It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
  4. It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
  5. It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others

Although the test has been further developed in later cases (see Harron v Chief Constable of Dorset Police [2016] IRLR 481 and Gray v Mulberry Company (Design) [2018] IRLR 893), these remain the essential elements to be established to prove that a belief qualifies for the protections afforded by the act.

Whilst the Respondents were reportedly prepared to concede on the issue Judge Robin Postle “did not accept the concession, preferring to reach his own independent decision”.

The Decision

Although the judge’s written decision is not yet available, the BBC reported that he found ethical veganism satisfied the above tests, and was “important” and “worthy” or respect in a democratic society. He concluded that

I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.

Implications

Veganism has been a hot topic in the news this month, with people around the country pledging to give up meat and animal products for “Veganuary” and brands such as KFC and Gregg’s launching new plant-based products. As such, the decision has attracted considerable attention in the news and on social media. The language surrounding the case has been sensationalist at times, with many commentators calling the case a “landmark” one.

However, the implications of the finding are limited. It remains a finding from an Employment Tribunal. The Respondents were apparently willing to concede the issue and so are highly unlikely to appeal it. As such it seems unlikely that the question will find itself before a higher court in the present case and so this case will not create a binding precedent.

Furthermore, the Claimant is a particularly committed vegan. He will, for instance, walk rather than take a bus to avoid accidental crashes with insects or birds. The beliefs of other vegans would not necessarily be the same, and they would need to prove that their belief qualified for the same protection.

Nevertheless, for ethical vegans the case is likely to be welcome news. This is the first time the question has been ruled on in the UK and the judge’s finding was apparently emphatic. The case sends a message to employers, who may take the view that the future cases are likely to yield similar outcomes. Peter Daly, the solicitor for Mr Casamitjana, has suggested that any abuse directed at ethical vegans

might be seen to be harassment in the same way a racist or sexist slur might be discriminatory action.

Finally, it is worth noting that for the parties, this preliminary decision isn’t the end of the case. The Respondent maintains that the Claimant’s beliefs were irrelevant to the dismissal, and the question of whether the Claimant was indeed treated less favourably because of his veganism remains to be decided.

Samuel March is currently undertaking the Bar Professional Training Course at the University of Law.

6 comments


  1. hrupdateadmin says:

    Judgment hasn’t been released yet but we’ll update the post if/when it is!

  2. nate says:

    Can you tell me where I can find the court case?
    thanks!

  3. Another aspect Vegans need to consider are the GMO’s/Genetic Engineered crops, including Transgenic as well as Genomic whereby DNA from other species are artificially inserted into the plant this could be mammalian, insect, reptilian, virus, bacteria, avarian or other.
    Plant produce must be plant only. This is not only for Human Beings but also the other species.

  4. Muhammad Arif Rana says:

    Happy New Year-2020 to dear respected all. Be happy and healthy with all in the coming days. Best wishes and Respectfully.

  5. Howard Gannaway says:

    So what happened to the Respondent’s comment that the Claimant had been giving investment advice? Was that not sufficient to warrant dismissal regardless of the basis of the action?

  6. Great to read about how this case came about. I didn’t realise it was between an employee of the League Against Cruel Sport, I’ve just this morning been reading about cultured meat production, and wonder what in time will be the ‘philosophical belief’ that may arise from the artificial lab production of meat in years to come?

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB


This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.

Subscribe

Categories


Tags


7/7 Bombings 9/11 A1P1 Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology birds directive blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity circumcision citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Cologne Commission on a Bill of Rights common buzzard common law communications competition confidentiality confiscation order conscientious objection consent conservation constitution contact order contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Criminal Legal Aid criminal records Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty declaration of incompatibility defamation DEFRA Democracy village deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention devolution Dignitas dignity Dignity in Dying diplomacy director of public prosecutions disability Disability-related harassment disciplinary hearing disclosure Discrimination Discrimination law disease divorce DNA doctors does it matter? domestic violence Dominic Grieve don't ask don't ask don't tell don't tell Doogan and Wood double conviction DPP guidelines drones duty of care ECHR economic and social rights economic loss ECtHR Education election Employment Environment environmental information Equality Act Equality Act 2010 ethics Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice european disability forum European Sanctions Blog Eurozone euthanasia evidence Exclusion extra-jurisdictional reach of ECHR extra-territoriality extradition extradition act extradition procedures extradition review extraordinary rendition Facebook Facebook contempt facial recognition fair procedures Fair Trial faith courts fake news Family family courts family law family legal aid Family life fatal accidents act Fertility fertility treatment FGM fisheries fishing rights foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression freedom of information Freedom of Information Act 2000 freedom of movement freedom of speech free speech game birds gangbo gang injunctions Garry Mann gary dobson Gary McFarlane gay discrimination Gay marriage gay rights gay soldiers Gaza Gaza conflict Gender General Dental Council General Election General Medical Council genetic discrimination genetic engineering genetic information genetics genetic testing Google government Grenfell grooming Gun Control gwyneth paltrow gypsies habitats habitats protection Halsbury's Law Exchange hammerton v uk happy new year harassment Hardeep Singh Haringey Council Harkins and Edwards Health healthcare health insurance Heathrow heist heightened scrutiny Henry VII Henry VIII herd immunity hereditary disorder High Court of Justiciary Hirst v UK HIV HJ Iran HM (Iraq) v The Secretary of state for the home department [2010] EWCA Civ 1322 Holder holkham beach holocaust homelessness Home Office Home Office v Tariq homeopathy hooding Hounslow v Powell House of Commons Housing housing benefits Howard League for Penal Reform how judges decide cases hra damages claim Hrant Dink HRLA HS2 hs2 challenge hts http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2011/04/11/us-state-department-reports-on-uk-human-rights/ Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority human genome human rights Human Rights Act Human Rights Act 1998 human rights advocacy Human rights and the UK constitution human rights commission human rights conventions human rights damages Human Rights Day human rights decisions Human Rights Information Project human rights news Human Rights Watch human right to education human trafficking hunting Huntington's Disease HXA hyper injunctions Igor Sutyagin illegality defence immigration Immigration/Extradition Immigration Act 2014 immigration appeals immigration detention immigration judge immigration rules immunity increase of sanction India Indonesia Infrastructure Planning Committee inherent jurisdiction inherited disease Inhuman and degrading treatment injunction Inquest Inquests insult insurance insurmountable obstacles intelligence services act intercept evidence interception interests of the child interim remedies international international conflict international criminal court international humanitarian law international human rights international human rights law international law international treaty obligations internet internet service providers internment internship inuit investigation investigative duty in vitro fertilisation Iran iranian bank sanctions Iranian nuclear program Iraq Iraqi asylum seeker Iraq War Ireland irrationality islam Israel Italy iTunes IVF ivory ban jackson reforms Janowiec and Others v Russia ( Japan Jason Smith Jeet Singh Jefferies Jeremy Corbyn jeremy hunt job Jogee John Hemming John Terry joint enterprise joint tenancy Jon Guant Joseph v Spiller journalism judaism judges Judges and Juries judging Judicial activism judicial brevity judicial deference judicial review Judicial Review reform judiciary Julian Assange jurisdiction jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Act Justice and Security Bill Justice and Security Green Paper Justice Human Rights Awards JUSTICE Human Rights Awards 2010 just satisfaction Katyn Massacre Kay v Lambeth Kay v UK Ken Clarke Ken Pease Kerry McCarthy Kettling Kings College Klimas koran burning Labour Lady Hale lansley NHS reforms LASPO Law Commission Law Pod UK Law Society Law Society of Scotland leave to enter leave to remain legal aid legal aid cuts Legal Aid desert Legal Aid Reforms legal blogs Legal Certainty legal naughty step Legal Ombudsman legal representation legitimate expectation let as a dwelling Leveson Inquiry Levi Bellfield lewisham hospital closure lgbtq liability Libel libel reform Liberal Democrat Conference Liberty libraries closure library closures Libya licence conditions licence to shoot life insurance life sentence life support limestone pavements limitation lisbon treaty Lithuania Litigation litvinenko live exports local authorities locked in syndrome london borough of merton London Legal Walk London Probation Trust Lord Bingham Lord Bingham of Cornhill Lord Blair Lord Goldsmith lord irvine Lord Judge speech Lord Kerr Lord Lester Lord Neuberger Lord Phillips Lord Rodger Lord Sumption Lord Taylor LSC tender luftur rahman machine learning MAGA Magna Carta mail on sunday Majority Verdict Malcolm Kennedy malice Margaret Thatcher Margin of Appreciation margin of discretion Maria Gallastegui marriage material support maternity pay Matthew Woods Mattu v The University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust [2011] EWHC 2068 (QB) Maya the Cat Mba v London Borough Of Merton McKenzie friend Media and Censorship Medical medical liability medical negligence medical qualifications medical records medicine mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Capacity Act 2005 Mental Health mental health act mental health advocacy mental health awareness Mental Health Courts Mental illness merits review MGN v UK michael gove Midwives migrant crisis Milly Dowler Ministerial Code Ministry of Justice Ministry of Justice cuts misfeasance in public office modern slavery morality morocco mortuaries motherhood Motor Neurone disease Moulton Mousa MP expenses Mr Gul Mr Justice Eady MS (Palestinian Territories) (FC) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department murder murder reform Musician's Union Muslim NADA v. SWITZERLAND - 10593/08 - HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1691 naked rambler Naomi Campbell nationality National Pro Bono Week national security Natural England nature conservation naturism Nazi negligence Neuberger neuroscience Newcastle university news News of the World new Supreme Court President NHS NHS Risk Register Nick Clegg Nicklinson Niqaab Noise Regulations 2005 Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance nursing nursing home Obituary Occupy London offensive jokes Offensive Speech offensive t shirt oil spill olympics open justice oppress OPQ v BJM orchestra Osama Bin Laden Oxford University paramountcy principle parental rights parenthood parking spaces parliamentary expenses parliamentary expenses scandal Parliamentary sovereignty Parliament square parole board passive smoking pastor Terry Jones patents Pathway Students Patrick Quinn murder Pensions persecution personal data Personal Injury personality rights perversity Peter and Hazelmary Bull PF and EF v UK Phil Woolas phone hacking phone taps physical and mental disabilities physician assisted death Pinnock Piracy Plagiarism planning planning human rights planning system plebgate POCA podcast points Poland Police police investigations police liability police misconduct police powers police surveillance Policy Exchange report political judges Politics Politics/Public Order poor reporting Pope Pope's visit Pope Benedict portal possession proceedings power of attorney PoW letters to ministers pre-nup pre-nuptial Pre-trial detention predator control pregnancy press press briefing press freedom Prince Charles prince of wales princess caroline of monaco principle of subsidiarity prior restraint prison Prisoners prisoners rights prisoners voting prisoner vote prisoner votes prisoner voting prison numbers Prisons prison vote privacy privacy injunction privacy law through the front door Private life private nuisance private use proceeds of crime Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecution Protection of Freedoms Act Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest protest camp protest rights Protocol 15 psychiatric hospitals Public/Private public access publication public authorities Public Bodies Bill public inquiries public interest public interest environmental litigation public interest immunity Public Order Public Sector Equality Duty putting the past behind quango quantum quarantine Queen's Speech queer in the 21st century R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Ors [2011] EWCA Civ 895 R (on the application of) v The General Medical Council [2013] EWHC 2839 (Admin) R (on the application of EH) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 2569 (Admin) R (on the application of G) v The Governors of X School Rabone and another v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust [2012] UKSC 2 race relations Rachel Corrie Radmacher Raed Salah Mahajna Raed Saleh Ramsgate raptors rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion resuscitation RightsInfo right to die right to family life right to life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials security services sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa south african constitution Spain special advocates spending cuts Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance swine flu Syria Tax Taxi technology Terrorism terrorism act tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine unfair consultation universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vaccination vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe

Disclaimer


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: