An employment tribunal has ruled today that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by law.
The ruling is significant for the hundreds of thousands of vegans across the country as it means that employers and public sector institutions must give due regard to the needs of vegans.
For example, an employer requiring its staff to wear safety footwear must consider the needs of vegan employees and a school providing meals must offer vegan options for children who require them.
The case was not just about the rights of vegans; a society that respects veganism and accommodates vegans also gives expression to the undisputed moral standing and rights of non-human animals.
Dr Jeanette Rowley, The Vegan Society’s legal expert, was instrumental in making the case for this ruling and gave evidence at the tribunal.
She said: “This decision supports vegans and transitioning vegans by recognising the importance of their convictions and their protection under the Equality Act 2010.
“We must develop and implement social policies and practices that give effect to our compassion for animals and their rights.”
Claimant Jordi Casamitjana said he was sacked by his employer after raising concerns that its pension fund was being invested into companies involved in animal testing.
He claims he was unfairly disciplined for making this disclosure and that the decision to dismiss him was because of his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.
At the tribunal in Norwich on Friday, Judge Robin Postle gave a short summary judgment, ruling that ethical veganism satisfies the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief and is therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010.
For a belief to be protected under the Act, it must meet a series of tests including being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not being incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with fundamental rights of others. There more details on this aspect in this blog.
Dietary vegans and ethical vegans both eat a plant-based diet, but ethical vegans also try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation including not wearing clothing made of wool or leather and not using products tested on animals.
Other case law already indicated that ethical veganism may fall under this protection, but this is the first time that a direct ruling has been made in UK law.
The judge will be writing up the formal decision now and this is expected within the next 90 days.