Vegans are now protected under UK equality laws

Vegans have today won protection under UK anti-discrimination law in a landmark hearing which has ruled that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and therefore protected by law.

The groundbreaking case was brought by Jordi Casamitjana, who said 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 claims 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 today, judge Robin Postle ruled ethical veganism satisfies the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief and is therefore protected under the Equality Act 2010. 

Jordi Casamitjana claims he was dismissed 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

As part of his work with the campaign group, Mr Casamitjana protested against 'cruel' sports like foxhunting (pictured)

As part of his work with the campaign group, Mr Casamitjana protested against 'cruel' sports like foxhunting (pictured)

As part of his work with the campaign group, Mr Casamitjana protested against ‘cruel’ sports like foxhunting (pictured) 

He also ruled that Mr Casamitjana, 55, who lives in London, adheres to the belief of ethical veganism.

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.

What is the difference between ethical veganism and dietary veganism?  

Dietary vegans and ethical vegans both eat a plant-based diet, avoiding meat and other foods derived from animals such as dairy products. 

However ethical vegans also try to exclude all forms of animal exploitation outside what they eat. 

This includes not wearing clothing made of wool or leather and not using products tested on animals. 

The ruling means that ethical vegans are entitled to protection from discrimination. 

In his ruling, Judge Postle said ethical veganism was ‘important’ and ‘worthy’ of respect in a democratic society.

He said: ‘I am satisfied overwhelmingly that ethical veganism does constitute a philosophical belief.’

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Casamitjana said: ‘I am extremely happy. I didn’t expect a judgment today.

‘This is a very important ruling for vegans everywhere in the world. 

‘That will inspire other vegans in other countries that don’t have that protection to develop cases that will lead to that protection.’ 

The campaigner is originally from Catalonia, but has lived in the UK for 26 years

The campaigner is originally from Catalonia, but has lived in the UK for 26 years

Jordi Casamitjana doesn't date people who aren't vegans and won't allow any animal products into his home

Jordi Casamitjana doesn't date people who aren't vegans and won't allow any animal products into his home

The campaigner is originally from Catalonia, but has lived in the UK for 26 years. He doesn’t date people who aren’t vegans and won’t allow any animal products into his home

A panel decided veganism was a 'philosophical or religious belief' and thus protected in law

A panel decided veganism was a 'philosophical or religious belief' and thus protected in law

A panel decided veganism was a ‘philosophical or religious belief’ and thus protected in law

How is veganism protected under the Equality Act?  

The Equality Act 2010 spells out nine ‘protected characteristics’ which it is illegal to discriminate against. 

As well as religious belief, they are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex and sexual orientation. 

If a belief meets the criteria it is illegal to discriminate against someone because they hold that belief. 

The law applies to a wide range of fields including employment, education and housing.  

The legislation says that a philosophical belief must be:  

  • Genuinely held 
  • A belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available 
  • A belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour 
  • Attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance
  • Be worthy of respect in a democratic society, compatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others   

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. 

Solicitor Peter Daly, who is acting for Mr Casamitjana, said: ‘This is a very significant judgment. 

‘It recognises for the first time that ethical veganism can form protective characteristics under the Equality Act, therefore ethical veganism can be protected from discrimination.’

Mr Daly said the ramifications for companies which employ vegan staff are ‘potentially significant’.

He said any abuse directed at ethical vegans ‘might be seen to be harassment in the same way a racist or sexist slur might be discriminatory action’.

When he initially brought the case, Mr Casamitjana said the hearing was not primarily about his dismissal, but about establishing ethical veganism as a philosophical belief.

He said: ‘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.’

The tribunal will now determine whether the League Against Cruel Sports treated Mr Casamitjana less favourably because of his belief in ethical veganism.

The League Against Cruel Sports said it sacked Mr Casamitjana for gross misconduct and that linking the decision to his veganism was ‘factually wrong’.

Nadia Eweida

Nadia Eweida

Dr Keith Wolverson

Dr Keith Wolverson

Other high-profile claims of discrimination have found their way into employment tribunals in recent years. They include BA worker Nadia Eweida, (left) who was sent home for wearing a crucifix; and GP Dr Keith Wolverson (right) who asked a woman to remove her burka 

Recent cases fought under the 2010 Equality Act include a 21-year-old interior design graduate who won a £3,000 payout from bosses after they were found to have discriminated against her for being too young.

Other high-profile claims of discrimination have found their way into employment tribunals in recent years. 

Last year, a GP has revealed he planned to quit medicine over an investigation by the doctors watchdog into claims he ‘discriminated’ against a Muslim woman for asking her to remove her veil.

Dr Keith Wolverson said he ‘politely’ asked the woman to take off the garment for patient safety reasons during a consultation last year because he was unable to hear her explain her sick daughter’s symptoms.

He was then ‘deeply upset’ when last week he received a letter from the General Medical Council, the professional regulator, informing him that he was subject to an inquiry over allegations of racial discrimination which could result in him being struck off.

And in 2013, a British Airways employee won a landmark legal battle to wear a crucifix at work after she was sent home for wearing one.  

Nadia Eweida won a claim of religious discrimination against BA in the European Court of Human Rights in 2013 after being sent home for wearing a silver crucifix around her neck.

Her right to profess her religious belief should have trumped the airline’s powers to mould its image by imposing petty uniform rules on its staff, European judges declared.

‘Looks like cat food, tastes great’: Fans give their verdict on Greggs’ much-anticipated vegan steak bake as it goes on sale today – after hundreds queued out the bakery’s door in Newcastle to be the first to try it

By Harriet Johnston for MailOnline

Greggs fans have given their verdicts on its hotly-anticipated vegan steak bake after they launched nationwide today with fans queuing out the door desperate to try one.   

Frenzied pastry fiends in Newcastle lined up in the freezing cold last night to ensure they got their hands on the £1.55 quorn-based treat. 

The vegan pastry is being rolled at 1,300 Greggs stores across the country today and is made up of 96 layers of no-butter puff pastry, Quorn, diced onion and gravy.    

Delighted fans bragged about their purchases on social media, with one writing on Twitter: ‘Vegan steak bake from Greggs is absolutely amazing I want another 20.’ 

Others were less convinced by the aesthetics, with one customer claiming it ‘looks like cat food’ but ‘tastes great’. 

The eagerly-anticipated steak bake comes a year after the High Street chain launched its famous vegan sausage roll.

Greggs fans queued up outside bakeries in Newcastle last night to make sure they were the first to try their eagerly anticipated vegan steak bake

Greggs fans queued up outside bakeries in Newcastle last night to make sure they were the first to try their eagerly anticipated vegan steak bake

Greggs fans queued up outside bakeries in Newcastle last night to make sure they were the first to try their eagerly anticipated vegan steak bake

Frenzied pastry fiends lined up in the cold before sun rose in Newcastle yesterday evening to ensure they got their hands on the £1.55 quorn-based treat

Frenzied pastry fiends lined up in the cold before sun rose in Newcastle yesterday evening to ensure they got their hands on the £1.55 quorn-based treat

Frenzied pastry fiends lined up in the cold before sun rose in Newcastle yesterday evening to ensure they got their hands on the £1.55 quorn-based treat

Newcastle city centre was packed with people on Wednesday night as they waited for Greggs to open

Newcastle city centre was packed with people on Wednesday night as they waited for Greggs to open

Newcastle city centre was packed with people on Wednesday night as they waited for Greggs to open 

Customers queued out the door for a launch party held at a Greggs shop in Newcastle last night, when one thousand fans were given the opportunity to enjoy a first taste of the bake before the rest of the country.

Treats with limited edition packaging were also given away to the first 200 customers.

A Greggs fan called Katie tweeted: ‘Am I in the queue for the Greggs vegan steak bake launch in the freezing cold at 10pm? Of course I am.’ 

A Twitter user called Hannah posted a video of herself eating the new vegan treat with the caption: ‘Live action shot of me trying the Greggs vegan steak bake. I much prefer the vegan sausage roll.’ 

Another elated fan wrote: ‘I GOT A VEGAN STEAK BAKE FROM GREGGS HOLD ME.’

Someone else determined to get their hands on one wrote online: ‘Mission of the day is to get hold of the Greggs vegan steak bake.’

Delighted fans bragged about their purchases on social media, with one writing on Twitter: 'Vegan steak bake from Greggs is absolutely amazing I want another 20.'

Delighted fans bragged about their purchases on social media, with one writing on Twitter: 'Vegan steak bake from Greggs is absolutely amazing I want another 20.'

Delighted fans bragged about their purchases on social media, with one writing on Twitter: ‘Vegan steak bake from Greggs is absolutely amazing I want another 20.’

Writing online ahead of the official launch, one excited fan commented: ‘Feel free to hit me up for any recipe ideas or advice. 

‘Veganism is one of the best things I ever did. Also Greggs Vegan Steak Bake coming soon, I’m so gassed.’

Another added: ‘Why isn’t Greggs vegan steak bake NOW?’

The launch comes exactly a year after the Vegan Sausage Roll which contributed to company sales rocketing up by 13.4 per cent within 12 months.

The new plant-based product also coincides with Veganuary, which sees some Brits give up meat and animal products for the next month. 

One happy customer took a picture of their vegan steak bake and put it on Twitter

One happy customer took a picture of their vegan steak bake and put it on Twitter

One happy customer took a picture of their vegan steak bake and put it on Twitter 

Delighted fans in Newcastle, where Greggs first opened, bragged about their purchases on social media, where excitement has been building ahead of the big launch

Delighted fans in Newcastle, where Greggs first opened, bragged about their purchases on social media, where excitement has been building ahead of the big launch

Delighted fans in Newcastle, where Greggs first opened, bragged about their purchases on social media, where excitement has been building ahead of the big launch

Greggs has made a store finder so customers can find their nearest branch selling them.

They will be on sale at its remaining 700 of its 2,000 shops from January 16.

A Greggs spokesman said: ‘Greggs has finally put an end to months of speculation by confirming the drop of its Vegan Steak Bake which hits shops today. 

‘The new Vegan Steak Bake means that the UK’s vegans, flexitarians and Meat-Free Monday advocates can enjoy an alternative to one of Greggs’ iconic menu items.

‘The Vegan Steak Bake has been created to mirror some of the original Steak Bake’s classic features, including 96 layers of light and crisp puff pastry, but instead is made with Quorn pieces, diced onions and a gravy filling.’

Passionate pastry fans have gone wild online after Greggs unveiled their hotly anticipated Vegan Steak Bake, with the treat available in stores up-and-down the country from today

Passionate pastry fans have gone wild online after Greggs unveiled their hotly anticipated Vegan Steak Bake, with the treat available in stores up-and-down the country from today

Passionate pastry fans have gone wild online after Greggs unveiled their hotly anticipated Vegan Steak Bake, with the treat available in stores up-and-down the country from today 

They added: ‘Greggs’ Vegan Sausage Roll launched in January 2019 to critical acclaim – becoming one of its fastest selling products of the last six years.

‘The Greggs product development team has been working for months on the Vegan Steak Bake recipe, recruiting a whole panel of vegan and non-vegan taste testers to ensure its flavours hit the spot.’ 

Meanwhile Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside said: ‘Our Vegan Sausage Roll launch was a huge success and we’ve been working tirelessly to expand our vegan friendly offering. 

‘And provide more delicious savoury food on-the-go options for people looking to reduce their meat intake.

‘The launch of our Vegan Steak Bake is another key milestone on our journey to become our customers’ favourite for food-on-the-go.’

A photo of the new steak bake price sign was leaked last Friday but Greggs remained tight-lipped and wouldn’t comment on speculation of when the bake would launch. 

However, it put out a teaser on its Twitter feed on Monday saying there was just two days until a big vegan announcement.    

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