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What is ethical veganism? Have you heard of it?

Vegetables being washed

A recent tribunal has ruled in favour of the position that Ethical Veganism is a "philosophical belief".

So what is Ethical Veganism?

There is no legal definition of ethical veganism however, broadly speaking, it refers to the belief that all forms of animal exploitation should be avoided. This not only includes eating a plant-based diet but also means avoiding foods and products which come from animals - like leather or wool - and which are made by animals - like milk and honey. It also means avoiding any products which result from animal testing and experimentation and any form of entertainment which involves animals - like horse racing or circuses. 

Ethical Veganism ruled as a "philosophical belief"

At a UK tribunal, Judge Robin Postle ruled that ethical vegans should be entitled to similar legal protections in the workplace in the UK as those who have religious beliefs.

Jordi Casamitjana (the complainant) argued that he was fired from his job after he raised concerns that the pension funds associated with his workplace were invested in firms conducting animal testing. He claims that when he informed his employer of the fact his concerns were ignored. After telling his colleagues of the testing he was summoned by management and promptly fired. His company disagrees with his claims that his dismissal was due to his belief in veganism.

“Religion and philosophical belief” is one of nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010. The tribunal is said to have satisfied several tests for ethical veganism to be qualified as a philosophical belief under the Act and therefore people who believe in it should be entitled to similar protections as those who hold religious beliefs. 

This employment tribunal has not resulted in any change to the law but will have far-reaching effects and set a precedent for similar cases in the future. Employers in the UK will now have to respect ethical veganism as a philosophical belief and they will not be able to discriminate against it. The legal protections will also apply to education and the supply of goods and services. 

What is the Equality Act 2010?

The Equality Act 2010 was brought together to combine 116 separate pieces of legislation into a single Act. The Act works to protect people from discrimination, harassment and victimisation and to provide equal opportunities for everyone. 

Harassment is defined by the Act as any kind of discrimination based on any one of 9 protected characteristics, which are; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Find out more about why Equality & Diversity are so important...

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