Is Veganism capable of being protected under discrimination law?

The BBC reported early in December that a case is due to come before an Employment Tribunal next year where the Tribunal will be asked to decide whether or not veganism is protected under discrimination laws as a “philosophical belief”.

Under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of religion or belief.  The term “belief” means “any religious or philosophical belief”.  It also includes a “lack of belief”.

To amount to a “philosophical belief”, a “belief” must:

  • Be genuinely held.
  • Be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint.
  • Be a belief about a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
  • Have a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
  • Be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

According to the BBC report, the claim is being brought by a former employee of the League Against Cruel Sports who was dismissed after disclosing that it invested pension funds in firms involved in animal testing.   The former employee’s case is that he was discriminated against because of his ethical veganism which he claims is a philosophical belief.

The League Against Cruel Sports denies discrimination and says he was dismissed for gross misconduct.

It is being hailed as potentially landmark case that could see the extension of the protection of discrimination laws to ethical vegans in the workplace, in the provision of goods and services and in education.

According to the Vegan Society, veganism is on the rise in the UK and regular readers will recall that we wrote in one of our November 2018 newsletters about the editor of Waitrose Food Magazine who was asked to stand down after makings some ill-judged comments about vegans to a reporter.   We speculated about whether veganism could amount to a “philosophical belief” and it looks like we may soon actually have a case on it – this is pretty exciting stuff for employment law fans!  We will be sure to report on the outcome next year if it goes to hearing.

This article was written and researched by Miranda Amos, Solicitor at our Salisbury Office

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