Disparaging vegans could now land you behind bars for discrimination, a UK labor court ruled.
On Friday, a tribunal in Norwich, England, determined that ethical veganism is a “religion or belief,” and one of the nine “protected characteristics” under the 2010 Equality Act.
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The ruling comes after Jordi Casamitjana of London claimed he had been fired by the League Against Cruel Sports as a result of his ethical veganism. Casamitjana said he was compelled to blow the whistle on his former employer, who he says had invested pension funds into firms that tested on animals.
According to the League Against Cruel Sports, Casamitjana, 55, had instead been dismissed for gross misconduct, adding that it is “factually wrong” to associate his firing with his beliefs. They also agree that ethical veganism should be protected.
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Outside the tribunal last week, Casamitjana told the BBC, “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.”
Judge Robin Postle, who has yet to rule on Casamitjana’s dismissal itself, based the court’s decision against a series of benchmarks qualifying ethical veganism as belief worthy of protection, including the fact that the lifestyle is not incompatible with human dignity nor conflicting with the fundamental rights of others.
Postle called veganism “important” and “worthy” of regard in a democratic society: “I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.”
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Casamitjana’s vegan beliefs are so fervent that he’ll often avoid taking a bus “to avoid accidental crashes with insects or birds that may occur when taking a bus,” according to a statement he provided to the tribunal.
“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,” said Casamitjana. “This is a positive belief, it’s not a negative belief. And therefore a positive belief is bound to be protected.”
He was also “optimistic” that the court will rule in his favor again regarding his dismissal from the animal welfare group.
Casamitjana’s council Peter Daly added that abuse of vegans now “might be seen to be harassment in the same way a racist or sexist slur might be discriminatory action.”
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“Although an interesting point of law, this hearing was preparation for the real crux of the matter: why Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed,” attorney Rhys Wyborn said on behalf of the League Against Cruel Sports. “In view of its animal welfare value, the League did not contest the issue of whether ethical veganism itself should be a protected belief, with the League maintaining that it’s irrelevant to the core reason for the dismissal.”
The New York Post originally published this article.