- Video report by ITV News Correspondent Ivor Bennett
Ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and should therefore be protected by law, an employment tribunal judge has ruled.
The landmark hearing was brought by Jordi Casamitjana, who said he was "shocked” when he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports after raising concerns that its pension fund was being invested into companies involved in animal testing.
He claimed he was unfairly disciplined for making this disclosure and that the decision to dismiss him was because of his philosophical belief in ethical veganism.
At the tribunal in Norwich on Friday, judge Robin Postle gave a short summary judgment, ruling that ethical veganism satisfies the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief and is therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010.
He also ruled that Mr Casamitjana, 55, who lives in London, adheres to the belief of ethical veganism.
Speaking on the judge's ruling, Jordi Casamitjana said he was "extremely happy with the outcome" of the tribunal.
He added: "Better protection means more vegans will be able to be open about their beliefs. This can only be a good thing for the billions of animals still exploited by humans, an environment under duress and stressed public health."
For a belief to be protected under the Act, it must meet a series of tests including being worthy of respect in a democratic society, not being incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with fundamental rights of others.
The ruling means that ethical vegans are entitled to protection from discrimination.
Dietary vegans and ethical vegans both eat a plant-based diet, but ethical vegans also try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation including not wearing clothing made of wool or leather and not using products tested on animals.
Mr Casamitjana’s lawyers said ethical veganism satisfied the tests required for it to be a philosophical or religious belief, which would mean it was protected under the Equality Act of 2010.
Peter Daly, acting for Mr Casamitjana, described ethical veganism as “a philosophical belief held by a significant portion of the population in the UK and around the world”.
He believes that "the recognition of ethical veganism as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 will have potentially significant effects on employment and the workplace, education, transport and the provision of goods and services."
The League Against Cruel Sports has said it sacked Mr Casamitjana for “gross misconduct”.
In a statement to the BBC, it said: “The League Against Cruel Sports is an inclusive employer, and as this is a hearing to decide whether veganism should be a protected status, something which the league does not contest, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”
Prior to the ruling, Mr Casamitjana told Vegan Life: “If I win this case, this will secure the first judgment in Europe stating that ethical vegans are legally protected from discrimination because of our beliefs.”