Employment Tribunal provides reasoning in ethical veganism case

29 January 2020 by

ethical vegan

Casamitjana v The League Against Cruel Sports [2020] UKET 3331129/2018 

Following his headline-grabbing finding on 3rd January 2020 that “ethical veganism is a philosophical belief which qualifies as a protected belief within the meaning of section 10 of The Equality Act 2010”, Norwich Employment Tribunal Judge Postle has now provided his full determination.

Background

The judgment was handed down following a preliminary hearing in a matter between the Claimant, Mr Jordi Casamitjana Costa, and his former employer, The League Against Cruel Sports. The facts of the case are set out in more detail in an earlier article from earlier this month.

In short, the Claimant is pursing complaints, inter alia, of indirect discrimination, direct discrimination or harassment and victimisation by reference to his belief in “ethical veganism”. “Ethical veganism”, according to the Vegan Society,it is a philosophy and way of life 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.

Issue

The purpose of the preliminary hearing was to determine whether or not ethical veganism satisfied the test 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

The Respondents were willing to concede. However, Employment Tribunal Judge Postle preferred to reach his own independent decision.

Held

Finding emphatically for the claimant on every limb of the test in Grainger v Nicholson, it was

easy to conclude that there is overwhelming evidence before [the court] that ethical veganism is capable of being a philosophical belief and thus a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. [40]

The judge’s reasoning is set out at [33]-38]. It was found that:

  1. There is “no doubt” that the Claimant genuinely holds his belief [33];
  2. This is a “real and genuine belief” as opposed to some “irrational viewpoint” [34];
  3. It has “sweeping consequences” on human behaviour [35];
  4. It has, “without doubt” obtained a “high level of cogency, cohesion and importance” [36]; and
  5. It “does not in away way offend society” [38]

Importance of the finding

Although hailed by commentators as a “landmark ruling,” The Law Society Gazette, citing Barry Ross of Crossland Employment Solicitors, reported that the ruling does not, in fact, affect the law:

It is important to remember that this is the judgment of the first instance employment tribunal. It does not have to be followed and does not implement any change in the law. It does give employers guidance in relation to the likely treatment of ethical veganism before the employment tribunal and as such, the types of steps they should be considering for their employees and the workplace.

Nevertheless, the judge’s reasoning seems sound and the evidence persuasive. It therefore seems likely that future tribunals or appellate courts would agree and reach similar findings in similar cases.

This being said, not all who seek protection under the act are likely to hold the belief as genuinely as Mr Casamitjana. At [20]-[22], the judgment delves specifically into the facts of his strain of ethical veganism, with dozens of subparagraphs detailing the extent of the Claimant’s commitment. There is discussion of the products and services he will not consume, use or wear, the lengths he will go to avoid them, and the supplements he takes to replace nutrients normally sourced from animal products. Particularly striking among the findings, at [22.6], is that

If the Claimant’s destination is within an hour walking distance he would normally walk there to avoid accidental crashes with insects or birds when taking a bus or public transport.

The Claimant will also not own pets, sit on leather seats, attend social gatherings where the food served is not vegan, allow others to bring non-vegan food into his home, or share a property with anyone who was not a vegan.

So whilst other courts may reach similar findings faced with committed ethical vegans, it is unlikely that the act would protect someone who simply eats plant-based food for dietary reasons or was doing a “Veganuary” challenge (going vegan for January).

A double-edged sword?

The news has been welcomed by the vegan community, with sites such as Vegan News calling it a “victory.” However, it should be noticed that establishing anything as a “philosophical belief” for the purposes of the act can be a double-edged sword.

Section 10 (2) of the Equality Act states that

Belief means any religious or philosophical belief and a reference to belief includes a reference to a lack of belief.

As such, the finding may prove to cut both ways. As per the hypothetical illustration by the EAT in Granger at [31],

if the Respondent [the employer] has his philosophical belief in climate change, and he were to discriminate against someone else in the workforce who does not have that belief, then the latter would be capable of arguing that he was being treated less favourably because of his absence of the belief held by the Respondent.

If it is, indeed, unacceptable for non-vegans to discriminate against vegans, it follows that vegans may also be unable to discriminate against those who do not share their views.

However, if this issue were to arise in a future case, the tribunal would likely be required to engage in an evaluation of whether such a belief is “worthy of protection in a democratic society”. As we have seen recently in relation to the issue of gender, this is a complex and fraught question. So although this decision may give some clarity, it may also raise further questions for the future.

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

1 comment;


  1. tureksite says:

    Some years ago I had a colleague (vegetarian, not vegan) who bored the pants off us all by preaching her views in the office and lecturing people who brought meat food in for lunch.

    I am of the view that (if taken to excess and reported after warnings) that would be a substantial reason to dismiss someone.

    She reserved special venom for anyone who brought in kosher food and that, of course, would raise other issues!

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


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 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 citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality consent conservation constitution contact order contact tracing contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 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 evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests insurance international law internet inuit Iran Iraq Ireland islam Israel Italy IVF ivory ban Japan joint enterprise judaism judicial review Judicial Review reform Julian Assange jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legal aid cuts Leveson Inquiry lgbtq liability Libel Liberty Libya lisbon treaty Lithuania local authorities marriage Media and Censorship mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery morocco murder music Muslim nationality national security naturism neuroscience NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance Obituary parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury physician assisted death Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system Poland Police Politics Pope press prison Prisoners prisoner votes Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries quarantine Radicalisation rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance sweatshops Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal credit universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court 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: