An ethical vegan who alleges he was sacked because of his views on animal products has won a landmark case at an employment tribunal.
A judge has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and should receive similar legal protections to religion in British workplaces.
Jordi Casamitjana, 55, says he was dismissed by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his beliefs.
Dietary vegans and ethical vegans both eat a plant-based diet, but ethical vegans also avoid wearing clothing made of wool or leather and refrain from using products tested on animals.
Mr Casamitjana claims he was fired after telling colleagues that its pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing.
The League Against Cruel Sports claims he was sacked for “gross misconduct” and that linking the decision to his veganism was “factually wrong”.
For a belief to be protected under the Equality Act 2010, it must meet a series of tests – including being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not being incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with fundamental rights of others.
At the tribunal in Norwich on Friday, Judge Robin Postle ruled ethical veganism satisfies the tests required and is therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010, saying it was “important” and “worthy” of respect in a democratic society.
He also ruled that Mr Casamitjana, who lives in London, adheres to the belief of ethical veganism.
Speaking outside of court, Mr Casamitjana said: “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.”
He added: “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.”
Mr Casamitjana continued: “That expression will create more vegans, and more vegans will help more animals, and more for the environment and more for health. It will be a domino effect.”
This hearing is not primarily about his dismissal, but about establishing ethical veganism as a philosophical belief. A second hearing will be about his dismissal.
Rhys Wyborn, employment partner at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, who acted for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Although an interesting point of law, this hearing was preparation for the real crux of the matter: why Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed.
“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 League is now looking ahead to the substantive hearing in this case and to addressing the reason for Mr Casamitjana’s dismissal, which it maintains was due to his misconduct and not the belief he holds.”