An employment tribunal has held that a claimant’s belief in ethical veganism that extended to taking positive action to reduce or prevent the suffering of animals, which included criminal conduct such as trespassing on private property to expose and remove suffering animals, was not a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010 (Equality Act).
- Ethical veganism, the belief that humans should not eat, wear, use for sport, experiment on or profit from animals, has previously been held by an employment tribunal in Casamitjana v The League Against Cruel Sports to be a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act.
- However, in this case, as the claimant’s ethical veganism belief extended to taking part in unlawful activities, including trespassing on private property to expose animal suffering and remove animals, the tribunal considered that her belief could not be worthy of respect in a democratic society and therefore was not protected. Had the claimant’s belief been limited to the belief in Casamitjana, it would have had no reservation in concluding that her belief was protected. The tribunal may have even reached the same conclusion had the claimant’s belief extended to taking positive, lawful action such as protests and demonstrations.
- There has been an increase in employee activism in recent years on topical issues such as inclusion and diversity, geopolitical matters, fertility and ESG. The tribunal’s commentary that a belief will not be protected under the Equality Act if it extends to unlawful activity is welcome for employers.
For advice or to discuss what this means for you and your business, please contact your usual Baker McKenzie contact.