Earlier this week a number of news stories popped up about a man who had been fired from his job at the League of Cruel Sports. He pointed out that their pension fund was being used on a company which tested on animals.This led to a court case, and about whether veganism should be considered a philosophical belief, and therefore carry the same protections that other philosophical beliefs carry (such as religion).
The man was sacked for gross misconduct, for sharing this information publically. Whether this was correct or not is debatable. Usually when working for a company there are rules about releasing negative information about your employer. This court case however seems to have morphed into a larger question over the philosophy of veganism.
According to lawyers Boult burdon Solicitors in the UK, while discussing the Equality Act 2009, a philosphical belief is defined as
- 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”.
The outcome of the course case was successful, ethical veganism can be considered a philosophical belief, and looking at the definition above I would suggest this is correct.
There is a difference between someone purely following a plant based diet, and someone who chooses to step away from the mass use of animals and their body parts in daily life.
- it is a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information; – Veganism is an underlying belief to avoid animal use in life, the present state of information is irrelevant. Information has changed drastically over the years, yet still vegans choose to avoid animal related products
- the belief is genuinely held; No question over this, vegans (or ethical vegans as the wording was in the court case), genuinely hold the belief of avoiding animal products.
- the belief concerns a “weighty” and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour; This is a little more difficult to define, but choosing every product in your life and diet to avoid animal products could easily be defined as weighty and substantial.
- it is “worthy of respect in a democratic society”; I think most people would agree that veganism and it’s arguments are worthy of respect (although maybe not all of the trolls on social media but they can be ignored)
- it is held with “sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”. Even non vegans could surely agree veganism, and holding it as a belief hits the above points.
I’m unsure what this means in the future, but surely ethical veganism being a protected belief is something we can all agree is a positive thing. I personally have never experienced anything other than curious questions, a few debates and requests for recipes at work, but perhaps I work in a field which is less likely to discriminate against veganism.