Ethical veganism has been ruled a protected non-religious philosophical belief after a sacked charity worker took the League Against Cruel Sports to an employment tribunal.
In a pre-hearing held earlier this month, the tribunal looked at a complaint brought by Jordi Casamitjana, and found that ethical veganism satisfies the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief. This means that ethical veganism should be protected under the Equality Act 2010.
The case will now be taken to a full hearing to establish the reasons for Casamitjana's sacking. Casamitjana says he was dismissed by the animal welfare charity after raising concerns that its pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing, whereas the charity maintains he was sacked for gross misconduct.
The charity did not contest the issue of whether ethical veganism itself should be a protected belief.
'No appeal hearing'
“I discovered that the pension was investing in companies, including pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, who are known to engage in animal testing,” Casamitjana claims on a crowdfunding page.
He says he was unfairly dismissed because of his philosophical belief in ethical veganism. “I was sacked. I was given no appeal hearing,” he writes.
An ethical vegan is someone who not only follows a vegan diet but opposes the use of animals for other purposes, to reduce the suffering of animals.
Casamitjana argues that donors to animal protection charities have “the right to expect that the money they donate will be invested in a way which is compatible with their beliefs”. He says that the investment of charitable funds in companies that test on animals is a “betrayal of the trust placed in those charities” by their donors.
Rhys Wyborn, employment partner at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, which acted for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Although an interesting point of law, this hearing was preparation for the real crux of the matter: why Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed.
“In view of its animal welfare value, the League did not contest the issue of whether ethical veganism itself should be a protected belief, with the League maintaining that it’s irrelevant to the core reason for the dismissal.
“The League is now looking ahead to the substantive hearing in this case and to addressing the reason for Mr. Casamitjana’s dismissal, which it maintains was due to his misconduct and not the belief he holds.”
The next hearing is expected to take place on 20 February.