Ethical veganism is a philosophical belief akin to religion and should be protected by law, a British employment tribunal has ruled.
The landmark decision was made in relation to the case of a vegan man who claimed he was unfairly dismissed from his job because of his beliefs.
Jordi Casamitjana, who describes himself as an “ethical” vegan, claims he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports after telling his fellow colleagues that the organisation's pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing.
The League Against Cruel Sports argues that Casamitjana, who considers himself a whistleblower, was dismissed for gross misconduct.
On Friday morning, tribunal judge Robin Postle ruled that the belief of ethical veganism is protected under the Equality Act 2010, which has been welcomed by vegans.
To qualify as a philosophical belief under law, veganism must adhere to certain criteria, including that it is a belief which is genuinely held and attains a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion, and importance.
While dietary vegans and ethical vegans both eat a plant-based diet, ethical vegans aim to exclude all forms of animal exploitation, including avoiding wearing leather or suede and buying from companies that carry out animal testing.
Casamitjana, who lives in London, said after the ruling: “It was very important to win this ruling today because it’s not just my case which is obviously important to me personally but ... this case will influence the life of many vegans out there.
“There will definitely be a positive outcome beyond me ... It will help the promotion of veganism as a lifestyle because vegans who might be afraid about talking about their belief, that might be feeling that they are not welcome, they will feel empowered now.
“They will believe that their belief is now a protected belief ... that will give them power and that means they will be more expressive.”
Dr Jeanette Rowley, a legal expert at the Vegan Society, told BuzzFeed News: "This decision supports vegans and transitioning vegans by recognising the importance of their convictions and their protection under the Equality Act 2010.
"We must develop and implement social policies and practices that give effect to our compassion for animals and their rights.
"The case was not just about the rights of vegans; a society that respects veganism and accommodates vegans also gives expression to the undisputed moral standing and rights of non-human animals."
The judge is yet to rule on Casamitjana’s dismissal which will be heard in February.