Coinciding with the start of Veganuary and Greggs launching its new vegan steak bake (which I’m told is very tasty), an Employment Tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief, and is therefore protectable under the Equality Act 2010.
Although everyone knows that vegans don’t eat meat or meat products, ethical vegans also avoid wearing animal products such as wool and leather, and avoid buying from businesses that use animal testing or otherwise treat animals inhumanely.
One of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 is “religion or belief”. The judge in this case ruled that ethical veganism was worthy of respect in a democratic society, and was “satisfied overwhelmingly” that ethical veganism was protectable.
This case will have repercussions not just for employers but also for service providers. For example, would an ethical vegan shop worker be obliged to stack and fold leather jackets or shoes? If catering, should a vegan option be provided and not just a vegetarian option?
This ruling was a preliminary hearing to determine whether ethical veganism amounted to “a belief” under the Equality Act. We now wait to see if Mr Casamitjana will win his claim for unfair dismissal, which will be considered at the main Hearing. He alleges that he was dismissed for bringing to his employer’s attention the fact that its pension investments were in funds linked to animal testing. The League Against Cruel Sports denies the allegation. The case goes on.
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