For the first time ever, a U.K. tribunal has ruled that “ethical veganism” deserves the same protections as religious beliefs because it is a philosophical system under existing anti-discrimination laws.
The groundbreaking decision stems from a case involving Jordi Casamitjana, who says he was fired by the League Against Cruel Sports (a non-profit group) because of his veganism, which is the practice of consciously avoiding all animal byproducts and cruelty. That might seem odd give that veganism seems to be perfectly in line with a charity aimed at protecting animals from hunters and the like, but Casamitjana says he was fired for challenging how his pension fund was investing in companies that test products on animals.
The league, however, says he was fired for gross misconduct and that they never opposed the new designated protections for ethical vegans.
The bias suit by Casamitjana isn’t over yet, but the judge decided to make this broader ruling early, according to the BBC.
The judge ruled that ethical vegans should be entitled to similar legal protections in British workplaces as those who hold religious beliefs.
He is yet to rule on Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal — which is due at a later date.
Mr Casamitjana, 55, who lives in London, said he was “extremely happy” with the ruling — which is ongoing — adding that he hopes fellow vegans “will benefit”.
To be clear, it’s not just religions and ethical veganism that get protections, but they are on the same level. There were nine protected classes under the law prior to this new addition. Veganism was included, the judge said, because it shares similarities with the goals of many religions.
The judge Robin Postle ruled that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010 by satisfying several tests – including that it is worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others.
I wouldn’t contest that ethical veganism is a “philosophical belief.” It’s also hard to imagine a situation where someone is fired simply for choosing not to eat animals or use their byproducts. The question now will be whether other personal philosophies attempt to gain legal protections stemming from this decision and how far the slippery slope might go. That said, ethical veganism seems more deserving of legal protections than some religious groups. (I’m looking at you, Scientology.)
Casamitjana’s fate will be decided next month.