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Employment Law: Happy new year for vegans

It looks like it might be a happy new year for vegans. The employment tribunal will decide in March 2019 whether ethical veganism is protected by the Equality Act 2010 as a ‘philosophical belief’, akin to a religion. Jordi Casamitjana will have to show that his ethical veganism meets the legal test: his belief is genuinely held; it is a belief rather than an opinion; it relates to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life; it attains a certain level of seriousness and cogency; and it deserves respect in a democratic society. He claims that he was dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his philosophical belief in veganism.

This case comes hot on the heels of William Sitwell’s resignation from Waitrose Food magazine after comments he made in a private email to a freelance journalist hit the press. Well known for his acerbic tongue, Mr Sitwell jokingly suggested killing vegans one by one and force feeding them meat. His comments were meant to be funny, but the fall out was far from it.

There is little doubt that ethical veganism can be a ‘philosophical belief’ in principle. Whether Mr Casamitjana will go on to win his discrimination claim is another matter entirely. Employers should foster a culture of tolerance in the workplace. Beliefs of all kinds should be respected, regardless of whether the Equality Act 2010 applies. A respectful culture makes for happy employees, and happy employees are better for business.