The Practical Lawyer


Ethical veganism – a philosophical belief

A vegan is someone who does not eat or use animal products. 'Ethical' veganism is more than just not eating or using animal products – it goes beyond this in that ethical vegans try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation in their lifestyle.

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. Among many other things, it protects people from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the workplace and includes protecting someone from being discriminated against because of a particular philosophical belief they hold. To establish such a belief an individual needs to show that:

  • it is a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information;
  • the belief is genuinely held;
  • the belief concerns a 'weighty' and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
  • it is 'worthy of respect in a democratic society'; and
  • it is held with 'sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance'.

An ET has recently held that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by discrimination legislation. A full merits hearing will be heard at a later date, at which a number of other issues surrounding the case will be considered.

The case is an important stepping stone for vegans and more broadly is an indication of the willingness of the judiciary to extend the situations which might amount to 'philosophical beliefs'. The decision does not have to be followed and as such it does not make any wholesale changes to the law. But it is a reminder to employers of the importance of considering the needs and beliefs of their employees.

Contrast this case with Gray v Mulberry [2019], reported in our November 2019 edition (p6) – it seems that a person must have to prove that a belief is part of their value system and is deeply held – rather than a convenient label when little other argument is available to them. See Mr J Casamitjana Costa v The League Against Cruel Sports: 3331129/2018.


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