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Are vegans protected from discrimination?

After Greggs bakery explained that profits from its “vegan sausage roll” had contributed to its record 58% rise in profits from January 2019 – 29 June 2019, it is not difficult to understand why other big names in the industry have followed suit.

Many well-known brands are now stocking meat-free or vegan alternatives to the nations favourite meals and whilst “Veganuary” is in full-swing, we are now questioning whether or not vegetarianism or veganism is a belief protected under discrimination law?

You may recall our article in October 2019, in which we highlighted that vegetarianism had not been held to be a “philosophical belief”, at least in the facts of the case of Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd.

However, we warned that from Judge Postles Judgment, he had hinted that veganism may be protected under the Equality Act 2010.

Veganism Discrimination

Fast-forward to 2020 and it should come as no surprise that whilst the nation tucks into their vegan burgers, Judge Postle has held that veganism is a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010, in a preliminary hearing for the case of Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports. In this case, Mr Casamitjana has pleaded that his employer dismissed him after he disclosed details of their alleged pension investment in funds involved in animal testing.

Although hallmarked a “Landmark case” by the BBC, this has not created new or binding law. Veganism and an opposition to the manipulation of products of animal origin or products tested on animals has already been considered a protected belief under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case of Casamitjana has, however, been brought under the Equality Act 2010 in relation to protected beliefs discrimination in employment. Therefore, it is still helpful guidance for employers as to whether or not ethical veganism is a protected belief.

What is a protected belief?

In order to be considered a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010, a belief such as veganism would need to pass the legal test helpfully outlined in the Employment Appeal Tribunal case of Grainger v Nicholson [2010] IRLR 4:

  1. The belief must be genuinely held.
  2. It must be a belief and not merely 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.
  5. It must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not in conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

In the case of Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports, Mr Casamitjana’s ethical veganism satisfied the above test, however, it is important to remember that each case turns on its own facts and a vegan with differing ethical viewpoints may well struggle to satisfy this test.

Our Advice

  • Most importantly, be respectful of others and their beliefs.
  • If you are catering for a work event, ensure that you check dietary requirements and provide at least one option for any special requirements that may present themselves.
  • Remember, there are many reasons why people may eat different foods to you. This could be due to a certain health condition or disability, a cultural reason, or even a religious or philosophical belief.

As always, our Specialist Employment Law Consultants are available 24/7 to answer your queries and to offer advice tailored to the facts of any Employment Law issue you may have in a way that is commercially sensitive to the needs of your company. Please call in our 24-hour client advice line: 0330 100 8704 and quote your Client Account Number on all correspondence and telephone calls.