A tribunal is to decide whether veganism is a philosophical belief akin to a religion during a landmark legal action.
Jordi Casamitjana said he was sacked from his job at the League Against Cruel Sports after raising concerns that its pension fund was being invested into companies involved in animal testing.
The zoologist claims he was unfairly disciplined for making this disclosure and that the decision to dismiss him was because of his belief in ethical veganism.
The League say he was sacked following ”gross misconduct”, and said it cannot disclose the specific reason due to confidentiality.
The case is believed to be the first time a court will decide on if vegans can be legally protected.
Casamitjana’s lawyers said ethical veganism satisfies the tests required for it to be a philosophical or religious belief, which would mean it was protected under the Equality Act 2010.
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.
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.
Bindmans LLP solicitor Peter Daly, who is acting for Casamitjana, said ethical veganism “comfortably” met the tests needed to establish it as a philosophical or religious belief.
He added: “Ethical veganism is more than simply a dietary choice.
“It is a particular and well-defined philosophical view about the relationship between humans and animals. It is based on well-considered and substantial philosophical thinking.”
Casamitjana said the hearing was not primarily about his dismissal, but about establishing ethical veganism as a philosophical belief.
He added: “Although the manner in which I was dismissed was intensely distressing for me, some good may come of it if I am able to establish this valuable protection for all ethical vegans.
“If we are successful in that hearing, we will then proceed to a hearing on the specifics of my dismissal.”
But the League Against Cruel Sports said it sacked Casamitjana for gross misconduct and that linking the decision to his veganism was “factually wrong”.
Rhys Wyborn, a lawyer representing the League, said in a statement: “The Claimant in this case was dismissed for gross misconduct and for failing to follow express management instructions that were given to him.
“After due process, the Claimant was fairly dismissed for his actions. This had nothing to do with his beliefs, protected or otherwise.
“In view of the lack of service to bring an ordinary unfair dismissal claim, the Claimant is making a desperate attempt to link his fair dismissal to his stated belief in “ethical veganism”, which the League Against Cruel Sports categorically refutes.”
Casamitjana is crowdfunding his legal fees for the case, which will be heard in March next year. He has so far raised nearly £6,000 of his £40,000 target.