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Landmark hearing begins in Norwich to decide if veganism is a 'philosophical belief'

PUBLISHED: 10:09 02 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:09 02 January 2020

A tribunal hearing in Norwich will determine whether ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by law. Picture: Jordi Casamitjana

A tribunal hearing in Norwich will determine whether ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by law. Picture: Jordi Casamitjana

Jordi Casamitjana

A landmark hearing to determine whether ethical veganism is a philosophical belief protected by law has commenced in Norwich.

Jordi Casamitjana hopes his tribunal hearing in Norwich will recognise ethical veganism as a protected philosophical belief. Picture: Jordi CasamitjanaJordi Casamitjana hopes his tribunal hearing in Norwich will recognise ethical veganism as a protected philosophical belief. Picture: Jordi Casamitjana

Jordi Casamitjana, 55, from London, claims he was unfairly dismissed by his former employer, welfare charity League Against Cruel Sports, after disclosing to other employees that its pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing.

He claimed he was sacked because of his philosophical belief as an ethical vegan, but the charity said he was dismissed for gross misconduct.

A two-day session at Norwich employment tribunal began on Thursday, although only Friday's hearing will be open to the public.

On Thursday, described as an "admin day", the panel will be reading through court documents that have been published online, to decide whether ethical veganism satisfies the tests required for it to be a philosophical or religious belief under the Equality Act 2010.

Jordi Casamitjana was dismissed by his former employer the League Against Cruel Sports in April 2018. Picture: Jordi CasamitjanaJordi Casamitjana was dismissed by his former employer the League Against Cruel Sports in April 2018. Picture: Jordi Casamitjana

It comes after a similar, unsuccessful case was heard at the Norwich employment tribunal in September, of Beccles waiter George Conisbee, 20, who claimed he resigned from his job at Somerleyton estate because of the way he was treated for being vegetarian.

But the tribunal ruled vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice as opposed to a belief of similar status or cogency to a religious belief.

However, Judge Postle made a distinction between veganism and vegetarianism, describing the former to have "clear cogency and cohesion".

Slater and Gordon lawyer Peter Daly, who is representing Mr Casamitjana, said: "This case, if successful, will establish that the belief entitles ethical vegans protection from discrimination.

"The case we have prepared sets out how the belief in principle, and how Jordi's particular interpretations of it, comprehensively meet the required legal test."

According to court documents, the charity is claiming Mr Casamitjana was sacked in April last year for gross misconduct by "failing to follow reasonable management instructions".

A spokesman said: "The League Against Cruel Sports is an inclusive employer and as this is a hearing to decide whether veganism should be a protected status, something which the League does not contest, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further."

In a witness statement, Mr Casamitjana lists how veganism dictates every aspect of his life.

"If my destination is within an hour walking distance I would walk there... to avoid accidental crashes with insects or birds that may occur when taking a bus," he said.

He also states he does not figs as they have a symbiotic relationship with a particular wasp.

"You can therefore not be sure whether any of the wasps' larvae is still inside," he added.

"I try to avoid sitting in leather seats or holding onto leather straps - as are sometimes present on some forms of public transport."

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