Is Ethical Veganism Really A ‘Philosophical Belief’?
With Veganuary officially upon us, more and more of us are ditching animal products for the new year, and now there’s been a huge development for those who live by the plant-based lifestyle all year round.
While some people take up the diet for health purposes, many do it for ethical reasons such as believing the killing of animals for food and other products is wrong, and that it’s arguably better for the environment. Whether you believe their point of view or not, ethical veganism is now officially recognised as a ‘philosophical belief’ in the eyes of the law.
As of today, January 3, ethical veganism is now recognised under the Equality Act 2010, which legally protects characteristics such as religion, sexual orientation, race and so on from discrimination in British workplaces.
While it’s important for people not to be chastised or prosecuted for their genuine points of view and feelings, what actually qualifies for it to need to be protected by law? For example, I think that Twixs are better than Mars bars, but this shouldn’t be seen as a ‘protected characteristic’ – it’s just my personal point of view. So, when does a view become a belief?
According to solicitors Bolt Burdon, a ‘philosophical belief’ can be defined as:
In seeking to determine whether a belief is a philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010, an individual needs to demonstrate that:
– it is a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information;
– the belief is genuinely held;
– the belief concerns a “weighty” and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour;
– it is “worthy of respect in a democratic society”; and
– it is held with “sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”.
Still confused? Yeah, me too.
The whole thing has come around after Jordi Casamitjana claimed he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports because of his ethical veganism. The unfair dismissal case is yet to be finalised, but the judge ruling on it has acknowledged ethical veganism as a ‘philosophical belief’. This means if the company he worked for is found to have sacked him for being vegan, they’ve violated the Equality Act 2010.
The tribunal centres on Casamitjana’s claim he was sacked by the animal welfare charity after disclosing it invested pension funds in firms involved in animal testing.
Casamitjana says when he drew his bosses’ attention to the pension fund investments, they did nothing, so he informed colleagues and was sacked as a result. League Against Cruel Sports said Casamitjana was dismissed for gross misconduct. Casamitjana classes himself as an ethical vegan.
According to Happiful.com, there are five types of veganism: ethical, plant-based, raw, high carb low fat (HCLF) and environmentally conscious.
They define ethical veganism as the following:
Perhaps the most common and unifying reason that people decide to go vegan is in the pursuit of a more caring, compassionate lifestyle. Vegans believe in ending the exploitation of animals, which is why veganism often expands into lifestyle choices such as avoiding cosmetics with animal ingredients, or that are tested on animals, wearing wool, silk and leather, or visiting zoos and aquariums.
In 2017, there were a reported 542,000 vegans in the UK alone – 42% being under the age of 34 – and a large majority of UK vegans do it for ethical reasons rather than health ones.
With some people on Twitter deeming the decision by the judge as ‘bollocks’, one user hit back.
Replying to Sky News’ coverage of the Casamitjana case, one person said:
A lot of misinformed comments here. Ethical Veganism isn’t a mere diet. It’s a way of living that seeks to avoid all animal exploitation – such as using them for clothing, entertainment, and testing drugs or cosmetics. It’s 24/7 way of life, not just a meal time thing.
Ruby, who’s been a vegetarian since 16, and a vegan for the past three years told UNILAD:
My idea of veganism is that I try to live my life causing the least harm to the world, others, and animals that I can possibly do through my dietary and lifestyle choices. So, I don’t buy new leather or wool, I buy my clothes second hand, vintage or by sustainable brands.
Whether I think [veganism is] an ethical belief, I don’t know. It makes it all sound a bit religious. I believe that wanting to cause the least harm you can do is a personal lifestyle choice.
In my opinion, it can be difficult to not just see veganism as a ‘meal time thing’, and instead see it as something more meaningful. According to the Vegan Trade Journal, half of UK’s vegans only converted in 2018, making all this extremely new.
People have spent decades having characteristics of theirs, that are not in their control, recognised as being discriminated against – and now because something has become more of a trend, it’s been recognised in the eyes of the law. I mean, ponchos were once a trend and – even though they should have been seen as a crime of fashion – there were no laws protecting them.
Ethical veganism isn’t a trend, it’s a lifestyle choice. But therein lies the problem. At what point does a lifestyle choice become a belief?
This is bound to be the start of a long debate on the subject and one which, having looked at the different arguments, will require a huge amount of public education to get right as no one, no matter their beliefs (unless their beliefs cause harm to others) deserves to be discriminated against.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Most Read StoriesMost Read
CreditsThe Vegan Trade Journal and 2 others
The Vegan Trade Journal
Bolt Burdon Solicitors