A workplace dispute could result in the court system affording those who follow ethical veganism the same legal protections as a religion.
As CNN reports, the conflict involves Jordi Casamitjana of the UK and his former employer, the League Against Cruel Sports.
Casamitjana, a self-identified ethical vegan, reportedly “discovered that their pension fund was invested in companies involved in animal testing” and subsequently announced his findings to a number of coworkers, despite the group’s management telling him not to.
He was subsequently fired and is going after the company for alleged discrimination of his vegan beliefs.
Casamitjana argued that his case is “combination of whistle blowing and discrimination” because “rather than punishment, I was summarily dismissed for gross misconduct.”
“They could have given me a warning … they might have thought I would not drop the case as an ethical vegan, so they may have thought it was better to get rid of me,” he added.
The League, which described itself in a statement to CNN as a “vegan friendly employer,” denied sacking him for his beliefs or pension concerns.
“The discussion about veganism being a ‘philosophical belief’ is a thought-provoking one which many of our staff will be interested in — however this debate has absolutely no connection with why Mr. Casamitjana was sacked,” a spokesperson told CNN.
BBC reports that for the first time an employment tribunal will be forced to determine whether or not Casamitjana was appropriately fired or if the employer violated his “religion or belief,” a legal term afforded anti-discrimination protections.
Check it out:
“Religion or belief” is one of nine “protected characteristics” covered by the Equality Act 2010.
The others, all ranked equally, are:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- sexual orientation
It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate directly, by treating an employee less favourably than others because of their religion or belief.
To qualify as a philosophical belief, veganism must:
- be genuinely held
- be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
- attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance
- be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others
- be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available
Peter Daly, who represents Casamitjana, called the upcoming legal feud a “landmark case” which could recognize, for the first time, legal protections afforded to those in the vegan community.
“If we are successful, we will achieve a judgment which formally recognizes the protected status of ethical veganism and which could then be used as the basis to combat discrimination against vegans in employment, in the provision of goods and services, and in education,” Daly said, per the report. “This is therefore a landmark case.”
People online were torn on the issue as those in the vegan community empathized with Casamitjana and said that veganism was indeed a “philosophical ideology.”
An Independent op-ed argues: “Veganism is principally a philosophical ideology before being followed through in diet and lifestyle.”
“Increasingly, more people are adopting plant-based diets for other reasons, motivated by environmental or health benefits or simply personal preference,” the op-ed continued. “Given the emphasis on diet, many people forget the philosophical conviction which motivates a vegan lifestyle, hence the need to describe oneself as an “ethical vegan” in this legal case. It would be reassuring to have this legal protection recognised and respected.
Some others, like Nick Spencer, from the think tank Theos, which regularly debates religion and its implications on the legal system argues that warranting protections to vegans could be a slippery slope.
“The irony in all this is that rights are intended to be liberating but if we’re all turned into rights bearers, my rights clashing with your rights, we end up having to appeal to the courts to sort out our differences and that can become oppressive for everybody,” Spencer said via BBC.