In a landmark legal action, a tribunal is set to decide on whether veganism should be considered as a philosophical belief similar to a religion.
The case comes following the decision by the League Against Cruel Sports to sack Jordi Casamitjana for gross misconduct after he disclosed that the organisation invested pension funds in firms involved in animal testing.
He claims he was discriminated against his beliefs and the tribunal will decide in March 2019 if veganism should be protected in law in the same manner that religion is.
Religion or belief is one of nine ‘protected characteristics’ covered by the Equality Act 2010.
Mr Casamitjana said: “Some people only eat a vegan diet but they don’t care about the environment or the animals, they only care about their health.
“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.”
An ethical vegan is someone who tries to exclude all forms of animal exploitation including wearing clothes made from materials such as wool and leather or using toiletries from companies that carry out animal testing.
Mr Casamitjana worked for the animal welfare charity and claims that when he made the discovery about the pension investments he drew it to the attention of his managers.
When nothing changed he informed his fellow employees and was sacked as a result, which he believes discriminates on the basis of his vegan belief.
In a statement, the League Against Cruel Sports said: “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.”
In the hearing next March, an employment tribunal will, for the first time, determine whether veganism is a philosophical belief protected by law. If the tribunal decides that it is, the discrimination claim will proceed to a full trial.
Samantha Randall an employment law expert with Palmers, said: “This landmark case could have a significant impact of employment law in the future, should the court rule in favour of veganism being a philosophical belief then it could open the way for a host of similar cases regarding other beliefs.
“If you are unsure about how this could affect you or your workplace, it is important that you seek specialist advice.”
For professional and independent advice on any aspect of employment law, contact our employment team today.