Tribunal to decide whether veganism should have same protected status as religion

(Photo: Unsplash/Cecilia Par)

An employment tribunal is being asked to decide whether ethical veganism deserves the same protected status in under law as religion after a campaigner brought a discrimination case against his former employer.

Jordi Casamitjana, who claims to be an 'ethical' vegan, alleges he was fired by the League Against Cruel Sports after expressing concerns that its pension fund was being invested in companies that use animal testing.  But according to The Telegraph, he believes that his veganism was also a factor in his dismissal. 

Explaining what 'ethical' veganism means, he told the BBC that it goes beyond a concern for healthy living. 

'Some people only eat a vegan diet but they don't care about the environment or the animals, they only care about their health,' he said.

'I care about the animals and the environment and my health and everything.

'That's why I use this term 'ethical veganism' because for me veganism is a belief and affects every single aspect of my life.'

In a statement, The League Against Cruel Sports says Casamitjana was dismissed for gross misconduct and not because he was a vegan. 

Mr Casamitjana is being represented in his case by Bindmans LLP solicitor Peter Daly, who argues that his veganism meets the definition of a philosophical or religious belief meriting protection under the Equality Act 2010.

An employment tribunal is to hear his case next March and will decide on whether veganism should be a 'philosophical belief' protected by law. 

Mr Daly said: '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.'

Nick Spencer, of the Theos think tank, is worried by the prospect of veganism being added to the 'protected characteristics' of the Equality Act 2010.  

'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,' he told the BBC. 

As the Equality Act 2010 currently stands, the nine 'protected characteristics' are: religion or belief; age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; sex; and sexual orientation.