Veganism set to achieve 'religion or belief' status in court

An employment tribunal has sparked a recategorisation of veganism to protect those who feel most vulnerable to discrimination, but is this progress?

1y ago

Whilst the rest of us were preparing for the Christmas period, a controversy was playing out in the employment tribunal between the League Against Cruel Sports and their former employee, Jordi Casamitjana. Casamitjana had recently been fired for ‘gross misconduct’, but he wasn’t going to take it lying down.

This dismissal was due to a disagreement between the employee and employer, as he had discovered that they had invested their pension fund into companies that support animal testing – a move at odds to the moral code of both the institution and Casamitjana. He informed his superiors, who did nothing. When Casamitjana began sharing his findings with employees he got called into the office for dismissal.

Casamitjana contested this dismissal on ground-breaking terms. He argued he had been discriminated against for being an ‘ethical vegan’. This means that he considers his veganism to be not simply a diet, but a lifestyle – a set of ethics, even. Ethical veganism determines a rejection of wool, animal tested products and anything else that exploits or uses animals in any way.

For his claim of discrimination to hold water in court, and to be protected under the Equality Act 2010, Casamitjana’s self-determination must be classified as a ‘religion or belief’. It would consequently be ranked on an equal level as the nine existing categories:

- age

- gender reassignment

- disability

- marriage and civil partnership

- pregnancy and maternity

- race

- sex

- sexual orientation

To attain this status, veganism must meet a number of stipulations. It must:

- be genuinely held

- be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour

- attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance

- be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with fundamental rights of others

- be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available

That’s certainly a lot of hoops to be jumped through, but the likelihood of this case’s success is high. It has the full backing of the Vegan Society, whose head of campaigns, Louise Davies, said: ‘this could be a landmark ruling that will not only recognise the validity and importance of veganism but also confirm that the needs of vegans in their employment and their everyday lives must be taken seriously.’

Is this case, if successful, a step towards protecting what some perceive to be a vulnerable and targeted group in society? Or will this cause, as predicted by Nick Spencer from Theos thinktank, a spiral of unrestricted recognition that will in turn devalue any other recognition and lead to increased oppression?

Will legal protection improve the life of ethical vegans, or will it, as Spencer warns, create a society in which ‘we're all turned into rights bearers, my rights clashing with your rights’. This would risk causing a continual and increasing reliance on the courts to sort differences, ‘and that can become oppressive for everybody.’

'bloody rabbit food': the kind of thing that would be classified as hate speech once veganism is protected by law.

'bloody rabbit food': the kind of thing that would be classified as hate speech once veganism is protected by law.

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Comments (12)

  • Spencer is correct: while I feel for the complainant and his beliefs, I believe this will backfire spectacularly for all well meaning people if veganism is classified as a religion or belief.

    What we are seeing in the US Congress is a prime example of that. If one 'oppressed minority' group goes through an extraordinary process to establish a precedent in their favor (the so-called 'Nuclear Option'), then it can and will be used against them at another time when they are the 'majority'.

    If veganism can be categorized as a religion or belief, then why not 'carnivorism'? Then, couldn't the newly established carnivores have a grievance against anyone against their beliefs, like say, vegans?

    No, I have left jobs because I thought my company was unethical. There is nothing in this world that guarantees that your employer will follow your ethical stance. You have the choice to leave. If you decide to stay, then it behooves you to do your job without distracting others.

      1 year ago
    • In Aussie Law, there is a phrase, " What would a reasonable person do, under the circumstances ? "

      I like this phrase, because there a bit of latitude. And it actually asks the question :

      "what is reasonable ?"

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        1 year ago
  • I think the word you're looking for is CULT

      1 year ago
  • And Vegans wonder why everyone make fun of them, absolutely unbelievable.

      1 year ago
  • I was trying to find an appropriate Will Rogers quote for this case, but I failed dismally.

    So instead, here's a random, unrelated one.

      1 year ago
    • I'm in Group 3. We call ourselves the Inglorious Singed.

        1 year ago
    • Will Rogers is brilliant. I'm trying to get a copy of his film " A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court" but I'm not having much luck.

        1 year ago
  • Ok then.

    Let's say that a tractor powered by diesel, accidently squishes a worm, whilst being used to harvest a field of wheat , that was intended for the flour mill, that supplies flour for vegan bread .

    Going by the theory above, the farmer would not be able to use the tractor, because the tractor is unethical.

    Ok, so then if vegans want to eat a salad sandwich, the wheat will need to be harvested by hand, with a scythe, or similar.

    Ok then, now we are back in 1890 , where 40 % of Brits, Aussies and Americans were farm labourers.

    Well that's just wonderful, isn't it , because within hours, farm labourers will be walking ( not driving, because cars are unethical ) to the doctors, with back injuries.

    Some of them may have ruptured discs requiring at least AUD $40,000 worth of corrective surgery.

    The NHS goes broke.

    The streets are full of queues of people trying to get an appointment to see a doctor.

    But it's ok, because,

    a worm was saved.

    Lets try another scenario :

    I get up in the morning and walk to my vege garden, and I eat some blackberries, mulberries, raspberries and strawberries.

    I pick some leaves from my Camelia Sinensis, and make a pot of green tea, in my solar oven ( I actually built one, in 1999 , using only hand tools, just to see how long it would take - 2 days if anyone is bored. )

    Being a devoted gardening pixie, I lick dew drops of the flower petals, for my morning hydration, and use rainwater caught in a giant leaf of forgotten botanical name, for the water for my tea.

    But I don't notice the microscopic parasitic worm, which has been deposited on the leaf petals, by my rainbow coloured unicorn doing his/her/non gender specific morning " business" . Great, now I have an intestinal parasite.

    Maybe I'll try to save my own life ( generally considered a primary ethical consideration ) by drinking some tannin rich tea, with added herbal medicine person recommended mugwort, garlic, oil of clove, and black walnut tincture, with a view to eliminating the parasites.

    But is that ethical treatment of a living thing ? The parasite will most likely perish, because I'm going to take a modern pharmaceutical worm treatment ( or vermifuge , as renowned pre Scottish Enlightenment Era , middle ages herbalist Nicholas Culpepper may have put it. )

    After all, it was herbal medicine that cured the Great Plague and the Black Death wasn't it?

    Hmmm, perhaps not so much....

    Any attempt at scientifically answering that question, is incredibly difficult, because what little literature that survives those two points in history , was written before the Scottish Age of Enlightenment, and, as such, is not particularly scientific or coherent.

    Millions of microbes die as I boil the water .

    How should I feel about this ?

    I don't want to pick up some nasty tropical parasite, as commonly happens in tropical countries where people walk barefoot, so I sensibly wear socks and shoes.

    I don't want to get tinea, so I wash my socks in a washing machine.

    But the washing machine is made by burning coal, and powered by it.

    My Doctor brother is at work tomorrow, and a patient is brought in all smashed up, after falling off of their rainbow coloured unicorn, whilst riding in their ethical, organic, vegan pixie garden.

    Does the patient get xrays with fossil fuel powered xray machines ?

    Well you'd think so .

    Should the kid have been riding a rainbow coloured

    unicorn ?

    Reductio Ad Absurdum.

    If I don't follow this landmark legal case , what are the moral implications ?

    Americans have a phrase : " the right to individual self determinism. "

    So I guess that means, I'll decide for myself, as an individual, what is or isn't a moral choice.

    But that's little ol' me.

    It's illegal in Australia to attempt to coerce someone.

    It's also tedious.

    I might provide an absurdist statement, in an attempt, as P.J. O'Rourke says , to reveal moral insights, but it's only an attempt.

    Or, as Mr. Spock, the vegan Vulcan may or may not say : " fascinating.

      1 year ago
    • please don't hold up Americans as examples of philosophical excellence

        1 year ago
    • I like to quote P.J.s description of a Libertarian thinking process :

      " Our policy is that we have no policies"

      I think the American sense of humour is just brilliant in so many ways, and the way that it reveals moral insights is uncanny.

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        1 year ago