The Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) provides protection for employees against discrimination and harassment in respect of nine protected characteristics. Some of the more well known protected characteristics include age, sex, race and disability. Religion or belief is perhaps one of the less well known protected characteristics and there are often debates as to what qualifies as a philosophical belief.

Today, the Employment Tribunal ruled in the case of Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports, that ethical veganism is protected under the EqA 2010 as it amounts to a philosophical belief. The judge determined that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief because it satisfied several tests, including “that it is worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others”. Other tests used to determine whether something is a philosophical belief include whether it is a belief, not just an opinion or viewpoint, whether the belief is genuinely held and whether it has a similar status or cogency to a religious belief.

It is worth noting that today’s ruling differentiated between ethical and dietary vegans. Whilst both have a diet which is free from animal products, ethical vegans try to exclude all products related to animal exploitation from their life, for example, they avoid toiletries tested on animals or clothes made from leather. This makes it perhaps more akin to other philosophical beliefs.

This decision can be contrasted with another finding of only a few months ago, when an Employment Tribunal found that vegetarianism was not protected – click here for more information. Whilst this finding on veganism is a first instance decision, which is not binding on other Tribunals, it will be interesting to see what effect this has on future cases on potential philosophical beliefs.