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UK: Discrimination – An employment tribunal rules that ethical veganism is a protected belief under discrimination law

Mr Casamitjana claims that he was dismissed by his employer the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), an animal welfare charity, after he raised concerns that the charity’s pension fund invested in companies involved in animal testing. He brought claims of discrimination, harassment and victimisation by reference to his belief in ethical veganism (amongst other claims). LACS alleges that Mr Casamitjana was dismissed for gross misconduct for reasons unconnected with his ethical veganism.

Before deciding on the lawfulness of Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal and whether he had been unlawfully discriminated against, the Employment Tribunal first had to decide whether ethical veganism amounts to a philosophical belief that is protected under UK discrimination law. LACS did not contest that Mr Casamitjana’s beliefs were protected in this way, but the employment tribunal needed to satisfy itself on the point.

For a belief to be protected, it must meet a number of requirements including that it: is a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour; attains a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and that it is worthy of respect in a democratic society, compatible with human rights and does not conflict with the rights of others. Mr Casamitjana’s claim about why he was dismissed and whether his treatment was lawful will be heard at a later date, and we will have to watch this space to see what the outcome is.

Practical point

This case is significant because it establishes for the first time that ethical vegans should be entitled to protection from discrimination. However, as it was decided by an employment tribunal, it does not have binding effect on other tribunals, and each case will have to be looked at on its own facts. It does mean, though, that others with similar beliefs to Mr Casamitjana are likely to have the same legal protections.

The tribunal’s ruling in the preliminary hearing was given orally, and at the time of writing no written reasons are available.

Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports