The recent Employment Tribunal decision in Casamitjana v The League Against Cruel Sports set a precedent that ethical veganism is a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010
The judgment was clear in stating that it was “easy to conclude that there is overwhelming evidence before me that ethical veganism is capable of being a philosophical belief and thus a protected characteristic”.
However, it is necessary to note a distinction between a dietary vegan and an ethical vegan in this context. The claimant in this case was far more than a vegetarian who avoided eating dairy products and eggs as well as meat, and only ate plants and foods made from plants.
The claimant, who was a qualified zoologist, made life style choices which went far beyond his dietary choices, affecting all aspects of his life – from choice of clothing and household products to refusing anything that used animal by-products; refusing to attend social gatherings where the food served was not vegan; avoiding investments in companies that carried out animal testing; to refusing to handle bank notes which used animal products, and avoiding sitting on leather seats or holding on to leather straps. He regularly participated in animal protection marches and demonstrations and gave speeches at such events. In short, ethical veganism was his way of life, or a belief that he held and adhered to, which sought to oppose all forms of animal exploitation.
While the Casamitjana case for the first time established that discriminating against ethical vegans on the basis that their belief amounted to breach of the Equality Act, it is important to note that the judgment is not binding on other Employment Tribunals and should not be regarded as a precedent for asserting that all ethical vegans would be protected by the Equality Act.
In any case, it will be too much of a generalisation to say that the Equality Act protection now extend to all dietary vegans – all those who prefer vegan food over non-vegan varieties.