Ethical Veganism – Held To Be A Philosophical Belief

Following a recent preliminary hearing in the case of Mr J Casamitjana Costa v The League Against Cruel Sports, employment Judge Postle held that ethical veganism is capable of being a philosophical belief and therefore is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

According to an article recently published by the BBC, there are currently 600,000 vegans in the UK, and the number is growing. The Vegan Society defines veganism as follows:

‘A philosophy and way of life which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose and by extension promotes the development and use of animal free alternatives for the benefit of humans / animals and the environment, in dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.’

Judge Postle considered the principles found in the Equality and Human Rights Commission Code of Practice on Employment 2011, particularly paragraph 2.59 which sets out the conditions for a philosophical belief to be protected under the Equality Act 2010 as follows:-

  • ‘It must be genuinely held;
  • It must be a belief and not an opinion or view point based on the present state of information available;
  • It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and
  • It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.’

In passing the decision, the Judge referred to the Claimant’s day-to-day lifestyle to conclude that ethical veganism was a protected belief. References were made to the fact that the Claimant ate no animal products, would rather go hungry than eat animal products, did not wear any clothes from animal products and would walk an hour to his destinations in order to avoid using transport posing risks to insects and birds.

Judge Postle concluded his decision by stating that he was satisfied, and in fact found it easy to conclude that, there was overwhelming evidence before him that ethical veganism was capable of being a philosophical belief and thus amounted to a protected characteristic. It is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the grounds of nine protected characteristics in total including religion or belief.

The full merits hearing of Mr Casamitjana’s substantive claims relating to the reasons for his dismissal is to take place imminently.

Lisa Moore, Associate in our Employment Team, comments: “This topical case highlights the potential difficulties employers can face in determining what may amount to a protected philosophical belief. However, it does not necessarily mean that all individuals practising veganism will now be entitled to enhanced protection. This decision was very much based on the specific facts of the case including the Claimant’s particular belief system and his way of life. It will certainly be interesting to see what the wider effect of this ruling is moving forwards.”

To discuss anything arising from this update, please contact Lisa Moore on 0121 710 5847 or via email at lmoore@wilkes.co.uk. You can also contact any other member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333 or email us at employment@wilkes.co.uk.

Lisa Moore
Lisa Moore

Associate Solicitor, Employment