5th February 2020

Ethical Veganism: a protected belief under the Equality Act 2010?

As society changes, the law naturally evolves and this is particularly highlighted in the case law surrounding the Equality Act and its prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religious or philosophical belief. However, as always, each case is judged on its own facts as can be seen in the case below. Although not binding, it is interesting to note the Tribunal’s approach and whether we will start to see an increase in claims under this part of the Equality Act.

An Employment Tribunal has held at a preliminary hearing that a claimant’s ethical veganism was protected under the Equality Act 2010.

The Tribunal held that the claimant’s belief was genuinely held and was more than an opinion or viewpoint. It had a weighty and substantial effect on his everyday life and behaviour. For example, the claimant only worked in animal protection and avoided relationships with non-vegans. He also ate a 100% vegan diet, avoided using products tested on animals, wearing animal-derived products, financial products which invested in companies that carried out animal testing, or using bank notes manufactured using animal products. Rather than using public transport for journeys under one hour, to avoid accidental crashes with wildlife, he walked instead.

The Tribunal held that ethical veganism was “without a doubt” a belief which obtained a high level of cogency, cohesion and importance. The judge noted its root in the ancient concept of ahimsa (“not to injure”), an important belief of Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism. There was no conflict between veganism and human dignity, and ethical veganism did not offend society or conflict with the fundamental rights of others. The full hearing is listed from 24 February to 6 March 2020.