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Employment law

Ethical veganism as a protected philosophical belief

Ethical Veganism is now a protected philosophical belief. Read the full reasons and judgement now.

20 December 2019

The Employment Tribunal case between Jordi Casamitjana and the League Against Cruel Sports has concluded with a settlement being agreed between the Parties. As part of that settlement, the League Against Cruel Sports has conceded that Mr Casamitjana was a valued employee who demonstrated professionalism, expertise and commitment to the protection of animals.

The settlement

The League Against Cruel Sports has conceded that Mr Casamitjana did nothing wrong in raising his concerns about the League’s pension fund, for which he was dismissed.

The settlement brings to a conclusion a case that attracted international coverage when ethical veganism was recognised as a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010, and ethical vegans so protected from discrimination.

Jordi Casamitjana said:

“After nearly two years of litigation against the League Against Cruel Sports, I am extremely happy with the conclusion that we have secured. The case has established that ethical vegans are protected from discrimination, and I have received the acknowledgement I sought that my dismissal was based on my ethical veganism, and was not justified or justifiable.

In its evidence to the Tribunal, the League’s witnesses conceded that the concerns I raised - about the League’s pension fund investing in companies that test on animals and damage the environment - were genuine and correct. They acknowledged that my communications on this issue were motivated by my ethical veganism which expressed itself in three desires: firstly, not have to invest my own pension in unethical funds, secondly that I didn’t want my colleagues to do so without their knowledge and explicit consent, and thirdly to protect the League from the reputational and regulatory risk of making investments in companies that tested on animals.

The League conceded that the decision to discipline me arose from those concerns and communications, and that the decision to dismiss me was because of the strength of my ethical beliefs. They also explained how, after I was sacked by the League, the concerns I raised resulted in them changing in 2019 their pension arrangements so that the League’s current default pension fund for auto-enrolling is finally "ethical".

I worked for the League for several years over two separate spells of employment, and I know that it is staffed and supported by people with strong ethical principles to protect animals, the environment and society. I am hopeful that the events of the past few years will prompt the League to learn from its mistakes and enable it to reclaim its position as one of the most important animal welfare charities in the UK.

I would like to thank all of those that supported me, including current and former members of the League, everyone who supported my crowd justice, the Vegan Society and my lawyers Peter Daly of Slater and Gordon and Chris Milsom of Cloisters Chambers. This has been a great victory for all ethical vegans and animal protection, and I could not have done it without that support.”

Peter Daly, principal employment lawyer, who represented Jordi, said:

“It has been a privilege to act for the first ethical vegan claiming discrimination protection in the UK. The success that we have had is testament to Jordi Casamitjana’s courage, determination and indelible ethical principles. He has established a set of protections that will not only benefit ethical vegans, but because of the benefits of ethical veganism to our environment and society, will benefit us all.”

Mr Casamitjana’s barrister, Chris Milsom of Cloisters Chambers said:

“As the Respondent recognised in evidence, Jordi Castamatjana is a "thoroughly decent guy" whose actions were "well-intentioned and based on ethical principles." I am delighted therefore to collaborate with Jordi and Peter of Slater and Gordon to achieve this great outcome. There are many lessons to be learned here both for the League and more widely to ensure that those guided by protected beliefs are accommodated and valued in the workplace.”

Employment tribunal reasons for judgement

The Employment Tribunal released the full written reasons for its judgement that Ethical Veganism is a protected philosophical belief. While the underlying finding was made at the public hearing on 3 January 2020, the full written reasons go further in explaining the extent of the protections that ethical vegans are now afforded.

They include:

That the definition of the protected belief is based on the Vegan Society definition (Judgment paragraph 13). This gives a wide protection and makes clear that it is not only a limited subset of ethical vegans that are protected.

That a person may be protected even if they transgress from an ethical vegan lifestyle (Judgment paragraph 34). This means that someone who consumes a non-vegan product may still be protected, as long as they hold the protected belief.

That the protected belief is one that “promotes” the benefits of ethical veganism. This means that acts which encourage others to follow a vegan lifestyle are a core aspect of the belief and are protected, rather than simply being a non-protected manifestation of the belief.

Jordi Casamitjana, said:

“I am particularly pleased with the words the judge used in the final conclusion of his written judgement. In particular that ‘overwhelming evidence’ made his decision ‘easy’, as this confirms that all the effort I made in attempting to prove that ethical veganism deserves legal protection was worthwhile. I am also extremely pleased that the judgement states that ‘ethical veganism does not in any way offend society’ and that ‘it's clearly not simply a viewpoint, but a real and genuine belief'.

I really want to thank all of the people who have supported me via my

website, without whom this would not have been possible. Together we have achieved something important and remarkable.”

Peter Daly said:

“Although we knew we had been successful in establishing the protections, the full written reasons are further cause for celebration. The protections from discrimination will apply to a broad scope of ethical vegans. The recognition that ethical veganism, by its nature, involves convincing non-vegans of its benefits is also very welcome.

“We are very pleased to have secured this important result for Jordi Casamitjana and for all ethical vegans. We look forward to the next stage in the case, which is to establish that Jordi was dismissed because of his beliefs and because he blew the whistle on what he believed was serious wrongdoing.”

Dr Jeanette Rowley, legal expert, The Vegan Society:

“There was never any doubt in my mind that the convictions of vegans come within the scope of legal protection.

“The strength of this decision is of great significance for vegans and those transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. Whilst many vegans have extensive experience and knowledge, this ruling means that wherever one is on their vegan journey, their beliefs must be respected and given due regard.

“Judge Postle's confirmation that vegans have the protection of law is key to the demands of The Vegan Society that both the public and private sector provide for vegans appropriately and adequately. This includes all public services, employment and education providers.

This ruling paves the way for significant social transformation: it will generate the necessary policies and practices that respect our concern for nonhuman animals and protect them from suffering.”

At the Tribunal’s direction we are releasing the following documents:

  • The Hearing Bundle
  • The Claimant’s Witness Statement
  • The Witness Statement of Professor Jeff McMahan, Whites Professor of Moral Philosophy at Corpus Christi College Oxford
  • The Witness Statement of Dr Jeannette Rowley, founder of the International Vegan Rights Alliance
  • Written Submissions of Claimant’s Counsel, Chris Milsom of Cloisters Chambers

Original statement and quotes from before trial, released 03/01/2020:

Slater and Gordon is acting for Jordi Casamitjana Costa in his case which, if successful, will establish ethical veganism as a protected philosophical belief for the first time under discrimination legislation. The hearing on this issue will take place on the 2nd and 3rd January 2020 at Norwich Employment Tribunal. Only the second day, 3rd January, will be open to the public.

Jordi has made the following statement:

“I am an Ethical Vegan. This involves much more than just not eating food with animal ingredients, it’s a philosophy and a belief system which encompasses most aspects of my life.”

For more information, follow this link to a BBC article on the case.

“Ethical veganism is a philosophical belief held by a significant and growing portion of the population in the UK and around the world. This case, if successful, will establish that the belief entitles ethical vegans protection from discrimination. The case we have prepared sets out how the belief in principle, and how Jordi’s particular interpretations of it, comprehensively meet the required legal test.

“We are particularly pleased to have been able to assist in furthering greater public awareness and understanding of both ethical veganism and this complex and important area of law by publishing the documents relevant to the case so they can be read by a wider audience.”

Follow Up statement by Jordi issued on the 03/01/2020 at 12:30:

"I’m very grateful to present our case today, supporting the protection of ethical veganism. This has taken considerable effort to compile and we hope it will persuade the judge, first that I am the ethical vegan I say I am, and second, how ethical veganism fulfils all the legal requirements to be accepted as a protected ‘non-religious philosophical belief’.

“I am not alone. Many people have supported me because they, or their friends, have experienced discrimination for being ethical vegans. Hopefully, from my dismissal, something positive will come by ensuring other ethical vegans are better protected in the future. Myself and the legal team supporting me are confident of success, but this is a complex matter which remains ongoing. I really want to thank those who have supported me so far through and I hope others may join them as I haven't achieved my final target yet.

“Better protection means more vegans will be able to be open about their beliefs. This can only be a good thing for the billions of animals still exploited by humans, an environment under duress and stressed public health.”

Peter Daly said:

“I’m pleased with how the hearing today has gone and we look forward to receiving the full judgement in due course. This was the first of a two part employment tribunal. Now the question of ethical veganism has been determined by the judge, the litigation will move on to determine the lawfulness of Jordi’s treatment by the League Against Cruel Sports."

“The recognition of ethical veganism as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 will have potentially significant effects on employment and the workplace, education, transport and the provision of goods and services.

The legal team including my colleagues at Slater and Gordon and Jordi’s counsel, Chris Milsom at Cloisters, are very pleased with the result.”

Jordi Casamitjana said:

"I’m extremely happy with the outcome of this hearing and for the words of the judge who clearly understood what ethical veganism is. I didn’t expect to have a judgement today but the overwhelming weight of the evidence we have provided seems to have been sufficient for the judge to conclude that I’m the ethical vegan I say I am, and that ethical veganism is a protected ‘non-religious philosophical belief’.

“I am not alone. Many people have supported me because they, or their friends, have experienced discrimination for being ethical vegans. Hopefully, from my dismissal, something positive will come by ensuring other ethical vegans are better protected in the future. I really want to thank those who have supported me so far through and I hope others may join them as I haven't achieved my final target yet.

“Better protection means more vegans will be able to be open about their beliefs. This can only be a good thing for the billions of animals still exploited by humans, an environment under duress and stressed public health.”

How we can help

Slater and Gordon's employment lawyers have the empathy and the expertise you need. Call us now on 0330 041 5869 or contact us online today and we will call you.

All information was correct at the time of publication.

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