A ‘Life-Style Choice’ or a Philosophical Belief? The Argument for Veganism and Vegetarianism to be a Protected Philosophical Belief and the position in England and Wales

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-35
Number of pages35
JournalLiverpool Law Review
Early online date16 Jan 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jan 2021
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Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The recent judgment in Casamitjana Costa v The League Against Cruel Sports in England and Wales held that ethical veganism was a protected philosophical belief under employment law. In contrast, vegetarianism was found not to be a protected philosophical belief in Conisbee v Crossley Farms Limited and others. The authors argue that the Employment Tribunal misunderstood the notion of vegetarianism when deciding that it was a ‘life-style choice’. There are different kinds of vegans and vegetarians, each with their own way of practising the philosophy which influences how they live their life. Not all people who follow a meat-free diet should be afforded this protection, and it depends on whether their belief is one which is determined by certain factors, such as animal welfare and environmentalism, rather than for health purposes. The authors explore the arguments and analysis in the above employment cases, coming to the conclusion that the tribunals oversimplified what it means to hold values such as veganism and vegetarianism, failing to understand the differences between different classifications and sub-groups when coming to a decision. The different kinds of vegans and vegetarians and their characteristics are outlined, before determining whether this should constitute protection under employment law, protecting individuals from discrimination. The situation in the USA and Canada regarding this issue is very different, and there are parallels drawn with attempting to establish veganism or vegetarianism as a religion, and where they could benefit from the recent decision in England and Wales. Finally, this paper concludes that ethical and environmental veganism and vegetarianism should both qualify as protected philosophical beliefs, but other kinds may fall short of what is required to satisfy the requirements under law.

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