Vegetarianism and veganism: are they philosophical beliefs?

by | Nov 13, 2019

An employment tribunal held recently that a barman’s belief in vegetarianism and animal welfare was not enough for him to be protected from discrimination on the grounds of his religion or belief. In Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd [2018], Mr Conisbee resigned and claimed that he had been discriminated against as a vegetarian.

The tribunal considered a number of criteria, which tribunals apply to determine if a belief is protected by law. While the tribunal accepted that Mr Conisbee genuinely believed that the world would be a better place if animals were not killed for food, his belief did not meet all the necessary criteria. It held that his vegetarianism was a lifestyle choice and that his belief could not be described as being related to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. Other criteria include that the belief must be worthy of respect in a democratic society. The tribunal did suggest however, that veganism is more likely to be protected. Later this year, a different tribunal will consider if veganism is a protected belief.

This decision is only a decision of an employment tribunal and may be appealed. Other tribunals could reach a different decision on this question.

In recent years, the EAT found that certain beliefs can qualify as protected, philosophical beliefs. These include Rastafarianism, a belief that mankind is heading towards catastrophic climate change and a belief in left-wing democratic socialism. However, a police worker’s profound belief in the efficient use of public money in the public sector did not meet the criteria to qualify. 

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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