The Employment Tribunal judgment in the case of Casamitiana v The League Against Cruel Sports has been published today and provides the reasoning behind its decision that ethical veganism can be a protected philosophical belief.
For details of the case so far and information on the test to be applied when determining what constitutes a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010, see our previous blogs, which can be found here.
The League Against Cruel Sports did not dispute that ethical veganism could amount to a philosophical belief however, the Tribunal required to satisfy itself of two important questions:
- Was there a sound basis to conclude that ethical veganism was capable of constituting a philosophical belief? and if so;
- Does Mr Casamitiana adhere to that belief, in a way which was more than "merely the assertion of opinion or viewpoint"?
Satisfying the philosophical belief criteria
The Tribunal found that the belief in ethical veganism satisfied each of the key criteria which require to be met in order for a belief to be protected under the Equality Act 2010.
The Employment Tribunal Judge concluded that:
"...ethical veganism carries with it an important moral essential. [...] It is clear it is founded upon a long-standing tradition recognising the moral consequences of non-human animal sentience which has been upheld by both religious and atheists alike."
It was decided "without doubt" that ethical veganism carried a sufficiently high level of cogency, cohesion and importance.
In relation to whether the belief was worthy of respect in a democratic society, reference was made to the increasing recognition of ethical vegan beliefs in "modern day thinking", in particular the potential environmental benefits to observing a vegan lifestyle.
Mr Casamitiana's belief in ethical veganism
The judgment goes into detail about the many and varying ways in which Mr Casamitiana strictly observes ethical veganism, his belief extending to almost every area of his life and decision-making process. For example, he goes as far as to ensure that he only uses electronic products which can be powered by electricity bought from a Vegan Society approved power supplier that doesn't use bio fuels from the animal agricultural industry and he avoids using bank notes which have been manufactured using animal products as currency.
The Tribunal decided that Mr Casamitiana had a genuinely held belief in ethical veganism which amounted to more than just a viewpoint:
"...there is no doubt that the Claimant personally holds ethical veganism as a belief. He has clearly dedicated himself to that belief throughout what he eats, where he works, what he wears, the products he uses, where he shops and with whom he associates."
The judgment highlights the importance of respecting ethical vegan beliefs in the workplace, particularly given the rise in the vegan population in the UK.
The judgment does not expressly cover the differentiation between ethical veganism and 'health' or dietary veganism, however, given the lengths to which Mr Casamitiana goes in order to observe his beliefs and the strictness in which he applies his beliefs in every aspect of his life, it would appear that quite a high bar has been set in this case, casting doubt over whether simply following a vegan diet would be protected.
Beliefs are inherently personal. Therefore, deciding whether or not an individual's belief is capable of being protected under the Equality Act 2010 will always require a case by case assessment as to whether, and to what extent, that belief affects how they live their life.
The case will now proceed to consider the full merits of Mr Casamitiana's claims regarding the fairness of his dismissal and whether he was treated less favourably on the basis of his ethical vegan beliefs.
If you would like to discuss anything raised in this blog, please get in touch with your usual Brodies contact.
Workbox by Brodies users can find more information on religion or belief discrimination here.