Ethical veganism is a “philosophical belief” and so is protected in law, a tribunal has ruled for the first time.
The case was brought by vegan Jordi Casamitjana, who claims he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his ethical veganism.
His former employer says he was dismissed for gross misconduct.
The judge ruled ethical veganism should fall under the Equality Act 2010 but is yet to rule on Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal.
Mr Casamitjana, 55, who lives in London, said he was “extremely happy” with the ruling – which is ongoing – adding that he hopes it “will inspire other vegans”.
The tribunal centres on his claim that he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports after disclosing it invested pension funds in firms involved in animal testing.
Mr Casamitjana says when he drew his bosses’ attention to the pension fund investments, they did nothing so he informed colleagues and was sacked as a result.
Animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports did not contest that ethical veganism should be protected.
All vegans eat a plant-based diet, but ethical vegans try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation.
For instance they avoid wearing or buying clothing made from wool or leather, or toiletries from companies that carry out animal testing.
The tribunal’s ruling means ethical vegans are entitled to protection from discrimination.
“Religion or belief” is one of nine “protected characteristics” covered by the Equality Act 2010.
The judge Robin Postle ruled that ethical veganism qualifies as a philosophical belief, after satisfying several tests – including that it is worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others.
At the tribunal in Norwich on Friday, the judge said in his ruling that ethical veganism was “important” and “worthy” of respect in a democratic society.
He said: “I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.”
Ruling ‘will inspire vegans’
Speaking to the BBC outside the tribunal, Mr Casamitjana said he was “extremely happy”.
“I’m really, really satisfied and I hope all the vegans out there that have been supporting me – there have been many helping me in my crowdfunding – I hope they now feel their little donation has been properly used and all the vegans will benefit.”
He added: “Veganism is a philosophical belief and when you look at my life and anybody else’s life who is an ethical vegan, you will see it.
“This is a positive belief, it’s not a negative belief. And therefore a positive belief is bound to be protected.”
He added that he is “passionate” about veganism, which “gives you hope”. Mr Casamitjana also said he was feeling “optimistic” for the ruling on his dismissal – which is due later.
Mr Casamitjana describes himself as an ethical vegan and campaigns to get his message to others.
His beliefs affect much of his everyday life. He will, for instance, walk rather than take a bus to avoid accidental crashes with insects or birds.