DEBATE: In light of the ongoing court case, should ‘ethical veganism’ count as a protected belief?
In light of the ongoing court case, should “ethical veganism” count as a protected belief?
Beth Hale, technical director at CM Murray, says YES.
It is likely that Jordi Casamitjana, the claimant in this case, will be successful in persuading the tribunal that “ethical veganism” is a protectable belief under the Equality Act 2010.
Provided he can show that his decision not to eat animal products is part of a wider set of beliefs which have significant cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance, he will be entitled to protection.
Essentially, he will need to demonstrate that his veganism goes beyond a dietary choice and is informed by a belief system which affects his life choices more broadly.
The courts have previously found that beliefs in climate change and in the proper use of public money are potentially protected, so it is difficult to see why this case should be different.
Importantly, this does not mean that there has been discrimination in Casamitjana’s case. Once the tribunal has decided whether the belief is protectable, they will need to determine whether it formed part of the reason for dismissing him.
John Oxley, a barrister at Vardags, says NO.
The extension of anti-discrimination laws to philosophical beliefs has led to the mission creep of equality legislation. The courts have already “protected” beliefs in the importance of public service broadcasting, the efficient use of public money, and mediums’ ability to contact the dead.
With the law protecting anyone with a coherent belief, it dilutes the importance of protecting inherent characteristics from discrimination. It places an unnecessary burden on businesses, in bending to requests or facing down tribunal claims, and opens important laws up to ridicule.
Everyone is entitled to live by their principles, but equally they must expect some adversity in doing so. That’s the point of principles. A personal philosophy, even a worthy and genuinely felt one, does not need the same protection as an innate characteristic.
Ethical vegans, ethical sluts, and ethical egotists are welcome to do their thing, but using the law to protect their feelings undermines more serious applications of this legislation.