In a landmark ruling by an employment tribunal in Norwich last week, ethical veganism is a philosophical belief that is protected against discrimination by law. The ruling was made in a case brought by Jordi Casamitjana against the animal welfare charity League Against Cruel Sports for unfair dismissal after he had raised concerns with colleagues that its pension fund invested in companies involved in animal testing.
Although the ruling does not settle Casamitjana’s claim to have been unfairly dismissed, it does lay the foundation for ethical veganism to be recognised as a philosophical belief in the UK, in the same way as any religion, and is therefore protected by law through the Equality Act of 2010 against discrimination of any kind.
We have already described how being a vegan can be hard. Research has shown that vegans can be shunned by their friends and face a fairly isolated life, despite the rise in popularity of veganism. This is especially so of active vegans who are not afraid of propounding their benefits of their lifestyle to a wider public. Any vegan has the right to explain the reasons behind their lifestyle decision, and to inform and educate in a way that does not make people feel threatened. Whether it be through social media or by joining a group of like-minded people, everyone should be able to express themselves freely about things in which they truly believe.
And this ruling goes a long way to ensure that vegan beliefs and opinions should be recognised and respected. And as Casamitjana’s case shows, this is also now the case in the workplace. Ethical vegans should not, and now cannot, be discriminated against by any employer or employee in the normal carrying out of their duties. Looking to the future, this potentially could have a huge impact on employers, who possibly could be obliged to offer alternative arrangements – such as separate fridges and cooking facilities in canteens.
But that is something for the future law makers. Right now it is enough to know that ethical vegan beliefs are now acknowledged by law as 100% valid. It is a huge step in the right direction for the recognition of the rights of all vegans, especially as Veganuary is now in full swing.
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