Some individuals choose to simply follow a vegan diet, but ethical vegans try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation from their lifestyle. For example, they avoid wearing or buying clothing made from wool or leather, or toiletries from companies that carry out animal testing.
At a preliminary hearing, The ET has ruled that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.
Mr Casamitjana was employed by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) as a zoologist, specialising in animal behaviour. LACS holds itself out as a vegan-friendly employer. It came to Mr Casamitjana's attention that pension funds were invested in pharmaceutical and tobacco companies which used animal testing and he brought this to the attention of his managers.
Mr Casamitjana felt that no action was subsequently taken about his concerns and he then proceeded to tell other employees about the issues. As a result he was disciplined and then dismissed. Mr Casamitjana claims he was discriminated against due to his strong ethical vegan beliefs. LACS is defending the claim on the basis that Mr Casamitjana was dismissed for gross misconduct not related to his vegan beliefs, as he failed to follow a reasonable instruction.
Mr Casamitjana's full employment claim against his former employer will be heard next month.
Although this is only a 'first instance' decision and therefore not binding on other courts, the judgment sets out the likely approach of other courts and tribunals to ethical veganism. The decision means that employers will need to respect ethical veganism and make sure they do not discriminate against employees for applying ethical vegan principles to all aspects of their working life.
It is important to note that not all vegans or vegetarians will be protected under the Equality Act. A previous ET decision (Conisbee v Crossley Farms) found that vegetarianism was not protected in that instance and the Casamitjana case does not appear to cover those who simply follow a vegan diet.