The closest protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010 to ‘vegan discrimination’ is ‘religion or philosophical belief’. This article discusses whether the Act protects veganism as a philosophical belief.

Definition of veganism

The Vegan Society defines veganism as:

“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude … products derived … from animals.”

We believe the discrimination laws will protect veganism under this definition because it’s:

  • A genuine belief;
  • Also, more than a mere opinion;
  • A serious belief about an aspect of human behaviour (on grounds of animal exploitation or protecting the Earth) and
  • Finally, being vegan doesn’t conflict with human dignity or the rights of others.

Interestingly, there is a case going through the Employment Tribunal about veganism discrimination. So the courts should give us some (non-binding) judicial opinion soon. Our opinion is the law will not protect those who don’t like the taste of meat. But it will protect those who are vegan because of religion or beliefs about how we should treat the planet.

Do employers discriminate against vegans?

The findings from a recent survey of vegan employees and employers are that:

  • 45% felt discriminated against by their employers;
  • 31% felt harassed or unfairly treated at work;
  • 18% said their employer offered vegan dishes;
  • 96% said they had to sit on leather furniture;
  • 86% reported only receiving the option of soap tested on animals; and
  • Lastly, 33% of employers that do accommodate vegans stated they found it costly and difficult.

As it happens we’ve already written  about employers who  accidentally offend at the office bbq. Therefore it will be interesting to see whether the tribunals accept that vegan discrimination is a thing. Also, if so, what does the philosophical belief part mean? Then, we will know which category of vegans are actually protected and will be able to provide employers and employees with a guide.

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