Should Veganism Be Legally Protected Like a Religion?
A new court ruling in the U.K. says that ethical veganism should be recognized by the state as a philosophical belief.
In the summer of 2018, Jordi Casamitjana was fired from his job at the League Against Cruel Sports, a British animal welfare charity. The organization says that Casamitjana's employment was terminated for "gross misconduct" related to financial advice he gave to his colleagues, but the 55-year-old claims that the situation was more complicated than that. Casamitjana says that he was fired both because he told his coworkers that the League Against Cruel Sports quietly invested in companies that tested their products on animals, and because he practiced ethical veganism.
Casamitjana hired an attorney, launched a crowdfunding campaign, and started what turned into an 18-month fight to have ethical veganism recognized as a philosophical belief, one that would be eligible for the same legal protection against workplace discrimination as religious beliefs or sexual orientiation.
"What we want [...] is a clear and reasoned written judgment explaining why Ethical Veganism meets the legal tests for a protected philosophical belief," Casamitjana wrote on his crowdfunding site. "If we get this, it will mean that other ethical vegans—potentially in other countries too—will be able to refer to that judgment in situations where they feel discriminated against for being an ethical vegan—at work, and in the provision of goods and services—to show that the U.K. legal system has already considered and ruled on this question."
On Friday, an employment tribunal in Norwich, England, ruled in Casamitjana's favor, deciding that yes, ethical veganism was worthy of protection under the United Kingdom's 2010 anti-discrimination Equality Act. According to The Guardian, for a belief to be protected under that law, it must meet a number of criteria, including "being worthy of respect in a democratic society, being compatible with human dignity, and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others."
The League Against Cruel Sports did not contest the idea that ethical veganism should be a protected philosophical belief—it is an animal welfare charity, after all—but it said that Casamitjana's values were "irrelevant to the core reason" why he was fired from his job.
Regardless, Casamitjana was pleased with the judge's ruling. "It was very important to win this ruling today because it's not just my case which is obviously important to me personally but this case will influence the life of many vegans out there," he told Sky News.
"There will definitely be a positive outcome beyond me [...] It will help the promotion of veganism as a lifestyle because vegans who might be afraid about talking about their belief, that might be feeling that they are not welcome, they will feel empowered now."
A second tribunal will be held to determine why, exactly, Casamitjana was fired.