A tribunal is to decide whether veganism should be protected under the law in a similar way to a 'religious' belief during what is sure to become a landmark legal case.
The motion was brought forward by Jordi Casamitjana — a UK resident from California who reportedly describes himself as an "ethical vegan" — after he was fired from his job at The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS).
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Mr Casamitjana was sacked after publicly disclosing that LACS' pension fund was being invested into companies that were involved in animal testing. He argues however, that he was unfairly dismissed because of his belief in ethical veganism.
#Employment Tribunal to determine whether Ethical #Veganism is protected by #Discrimination Legislation — Mr Casamitjana has set up a @CrowdJustice page where you can help raise funds for his case. Read more here: https://t.co/UB1EJPOjK3 — @peter_daly representing #ukemplaw pic.twitter.com/lYqp2UM6Yu— Bindmans Employment (@BindEmp) 3 December 2018
Dietary vegans and ethical vegans both eat what is called a 'plant-based diet.' However, the latter attempts to reject all forms of what it argues is animal exploitation, including by not buying or wearing products of animal origin, including wool and leather goods.
LACS said in a public statement that, "Mr Casamitjana was dismissed from his position because of gross misconduct."
"To link his dismissal with issues pertaining to veganism is factually wrong. Mr Casamitjana is seeking to use his veganism as the reason for his dismissal. We emphatically reject this claim," they added.
Yet, in a hearing slated for March 2019, an employment tribunal will make the unprecedented step of deciding whether or not veganism, like religion, should be protected by the force of the law.
#veganism is similar to a religion but vegans should not try to force it on others if they want to be respected.— Lindy Coo (@ljmmuk) 3 December 2018
According to the 'Equality Act of 2010' both religion and "belief" are to be protected under British law. "Belief means any religious or philosophical belief," the act stipulates.
According to reports, Mr Casamitjana's lawyers are confident that ethical veganism fulfils any legal test to be considered akin to a philosophical or religious belief protected under the 2010 Equality Act. The law requires that for a belief to be protected, it must be considered worthy of respect in a democratic society and not infringe on the fundamental rights of other citizens.
If veganism were to become protected under the act, then it would be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any employee based on their adherence to that belief.
@BBCr4today #Veganism is already a protected belief under the #Equality Act and a recent case on school meals recognised a child’s right to have #vegan food at school. It’s not a case of ‘should’ have the right, the right already exists.— 3 Valley Vegans Ⓥ (@3ValleyVegns) 3 December 2018
The potential significance of that has not gone unnoticed by Casamitjana's lawyer, Peter Daly, who has been quoted by the BBC as saying that, "If we are successful, we will achieve a judgment which formally recognises the protected status of ethical veganism and which could then be used as the basis to combat discrimination against vegans in employment, in the provision of goods and services, and in education.""This is therefore a landmark case," he added.
Yet, from the opposing side of the aisle, Nick Spencer from the think tank ‘Theos,' which focuses on understanding the role of religion in contemporary society, is quoted as warning that, "The irony in all this is that rights are intended to be liberating but if we're all turned into rights bearers, my rights clashing with your rights, we end up having to appeal to the courts to sort out our differences and that can become oppressive for everybody."