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In a recent preliminary hearing judgement, the Employment Tribunal (ET) confirmed that veganism can amount to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (EqA) 2010.

 

What Does This Mean?

Many of you may be thinking how does veganism qualify as a philosophical belief?

However, this does not mean that by simply adopting a vegan diet you will be protected under the EqA 2010. It is clear from the Preliminary Hearing Judgement that dietary vegans would not be protected under the EqA 2010. Ethical Veganism on the other hand, is a philosophical belief which qualifies as a protected belief under the EqA 2010 (section 10).

There are five requirements which must be satisfied for a philosophical belief to be protected under the EqA 2010. Please find below the five requirements and the reasoning provided by Judge Postle, stating why veganism satisfies each requirement:

  • It must be genuinely held – “the evidence as to how the Claimant conducts his life and the basis of his philosophy…genuinely and sincerely holds his beliefs in ethical veganism”;
  • It must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available – “ethical veganism carries with it an important moral essential…founded upon a longstanding tradition recognising the consequences of non-human animal sentience…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 who he associates with.”;
  • It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour – “clearly it is capable of constituting a belief which seeks to avoid the exploitation of fellow species”;
  • It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance – “Ethical veganism obtains a high level of cogency, cohesion and importance…it is capable and the definition of the Vegan Society, namely a philosophy and a way of life which seeks to exclude as far as possible and practical all forms by exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. There clearly does exist a community within businesses and restaurants which adheres to this ethical principal”; 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 – “ethical veganism does not in any way offend society, it is increasingly recognised nationally, particularly by the environmental benefits of vegan observance”.

 

Judge Postle held that he found it easy to conclude in this case that ethical veganism is capable of being a philosophical belief, as ethical veganism carries with it an important moral essential; avoiding the exploitation of fellow species. Therefore, ethical veganism is a protected characteristic under the EqA 2010.

It is important to note that just because someone states they are an ethical vegan, does not necessarily mean that they will be covered by the EqA 2010 and therefore, each situation will be based on a case-by-case basis.

If you would like to read more on this case please click here.

The full hearing will begin at the end of the month, ending in early March when it will be decided whether the employee has been unfairly dismissed as a result of philosophical belief discrimination – their veganism.

 

Want to Learn More About Protected Characteristics?

If you would like to learn more about protected characteristics and/or have a discrimination case you would like to discuss with a legal expert, please get in touch with our bullying, harassment and discrimination solicitors.

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