The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) is being sued by its dismissed ex-head of policy and research, Jordi Casamitjana. He alleges he was fired after disclosing LACS was investing pension funds into firms involved in animal testing, and that this was discrimination because his disclosure arose on account of his being vegan. Although the case may well turn on whether, as LACS says, he was actually dismissed for misconduct, the fact that vegans might have special anti-discrimination protection is news to much of the public. This is how it works.
Just as discrimination because of your race or sex or sexuality is generally unlawful, discrimination because of your ‘religion or belief’ is also generally unlawful. The Equality Act 2010 defines religion or belief as “any religious or philosophical belief” (and reference to belief includes reference to a lack of belief). Not very helpful you might think.
So is veganism a philosophical belief? The current guidance of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (Grainger plc and others v Nicholson) offers the following test:
(i) The belief must be genuinely held.
(ii) It must be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available.
(iii) It must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
(iv) It must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
(v) It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, be not incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others
Following the above, climate change was therefore capable of amounting to a philosophical belief.
Veganism? It is easy to see certain individuals may hold the need to practice veganism as a philosophical belief. We will have to wait until next year for an Employment Tribunal to make that call. Regardless, the focus of most cases is likely to remain whether someone has been treated as claimed and what was the reason for that treatment.