An ethical veganuary judgment

7 January 2020

The Norwich Employment Tribunal has concluded that a Claimant’s ethical veganism (and not simply dietary veganism) amounts to a philosophical belief capable of protection under the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Casamitjana has brought a claim for automatically unfair dismissal, whistleblowing detriment and philosophical belief discrimination against The League Against Cruel Sports, a charity.

A preliminary issue was dealt with in January 2020: Whether ethical veganism – proponents of which seek to avoid animal products in their clothing, cosmetics, products and medicines as well as diet – amounted to a philosophical belief. The charity did not contest this point. The Tribunal quickly concluded in the Claimant’s favour. The full written judgment is currently pending.

A future main hearing will address Mr Casamitjana’s employment claims, including that he was dismissed as a result of whistleblowing regarding the charity’s pension investments in a “non-ethical” fund. The charity asserts that he was dismissed for misconduct.

This case contrasts with that of Ms Forstater v The Centre for Global Development & others in November 2019. There, the London Central Employment Tribunal concluded that Ms Forstater’s belief that women are those who were born female (excluding trans-women) and men those who were born male (excluding trans-men) – which she describes as a “gender critical” belief – was not a philosophical belief capable of protection under the Equality Act 2010. Her claim for discrimination on the grounds of those beliefs could not proceed.

The test for a “philosophical belief” under section 10 of the Equality Act 2010 was set down in the case of Grainger plc v Nicholson [2010] ICR 360:

1. the belief must be genuinely held;

2. it must be a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available;

3. it must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour

4. it must attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and

5. it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

Ethical veganism passed this five-part test and Mr Casamitjana’s will proceed to a full hearing later this year.

A “gender critical” belief did not pass the test as it failed on the fifth element due to the perceived conflict with the rights of others. The judgment stated: “if a person has transitioned from male to female and has a Gender Recognition Certificate that person is legally a woman. That is not something that the [Ms Forstater] is entitled to ignore”. Ms Forstater is said to be planning an appeal with the backing of third parties.