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Does vegetarianism amount to a philosophical belief?

The employment tribunal decided in Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd that vegetarianism was not a belief qualifying for protection under the Equality Act 2010. Although a first instance employment tribunal case, and not binding on other tribunals, it is interesting to see the tribunal’s approach to this issue.

Mr Conisbee alleged that he had been discriminated on the ground of religion or belief contrary to the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010). Mr Conisbee’s belief was vegetarianism.

The Tribunal accepted that although Mr Conisbee’s vegetarian belief was genuinely held and was worth of respect in a democratic society, it failed to meet the other legal hurdles namely:

  • The belief did not concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. Vegetarianism is not about human life and behaviour; it is a lifestyle choice and Mr Conisbee’s view believing the world would be a better place if animals were not killed for food.
  • The belief did not attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance. The Tribunal accepted that there are many vegetarians across the world, however the reasons differ greatly e.g. lifestyle, health, diet, concern about the way animals are reared for food and personal taste. This view was contrasted with veganism and the tribunal stated obiter that Vegans do not accept the practice under any circumstances of eating meat, fish or dairy products, and have distinct concerns about the way animals are reared etc. This belief has clear cogency and cohesion which appears contrary to vegetarianism where the reasons are numerous, differing and wide varying.
  • The belief did not have a similar status or cogency to religious beliefs.

The tribunal concluded that on balance they had not been persuaded that vegetarianism amounted to a philosophical belief capable of protection under the Equality Act 2010.

About the Author

Rajveer Basra

Solicitor

Rajveer is a Solicitor who works in the Employment team.

She advises employers, senior executives,…

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