Vegetarianism ‘not a protected belief’ under the Equality Act

Vegetarianism is a “lifestyle choice” and not a philosophical belief capable of protection under equality legislation, the Employment Tribunal has ruled.

The landmark judgment came in a case involving a waiter at the Fritton Arms hotel on Lord Somerleyton’s estate in Suffolk,

George Conisbee worked for the hotel from April 2018 until his resignation in August the same year.

He claimed he had been a victim of discrimination, arguing that his “genuine belief” in his vegetarianism amounted to a protected characteristic.

However, the tribunal heard evidence that while Conisbee had been reprimanded for wearing an un-ironed shirt and may have been shouted out in front of customers, there was no instance of any bullying because of his vegetarianism.

Employment Judge Postle dismissed Conisbee’s case. He said that vegetarianism did not qualify for protection under the Equality Act because there were numerous reasons other than conscientious belief why people might not eat meat, including personal taste, lifestyle or health or concerns about the way animals were reared.

However, he did warn that vegans could be considered differently as there was a “clear cogency and cohesion in vegan belief” as all vegans shunned meat, fish and dairy products because they believed it to be “contrary to a civilised society and against climate control”.

Whether ‘ethical’ veganism should be regarded as a philosophical belief and therefore receive the status of protected characteristic under the law has not been tested in a tribunal or court.

If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law please contact Claire on 01228 516666.

By Claire Davies Director

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