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Is vegetarianism a protected characteristic

Is vegetarianism a protected characteristic?

Employment Tribunal rules on vegetarianism

We all have the right to our own beliefs and opinions. But at what point should our beliefs earn the right of protection under law?

Certain characteristics and beliefs are acknowledged by the law and employees are protected if they face discrimination because of them. Under the Equality Act 2010, in order to attain this protection the belief has to be determined a philosophical belief.

Vegetarianism at the Employment Tribunal

An unusual case at the Employment Tribunal brought up the issue of vegetarianism as a philosophical belief. In Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd. the Claimant raised a claim for discrimination on the grounds of belief and religion. In this case the Claimant’s belief was that they were a vegetarian. Could this be classed as a philosophical belief?

The Employment Tribunal states that the following criteria must apply in order for a belief to class as a philosophical belief:

  • The belief is genuinely held
  • It is a belief and not an opinion or viewpoint based on present state of information
  • The belief concerns a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour
  • It is worthy of respect in a democratic society and
  • It is held with “sufficient cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance”

Using this criteria the Claimant lost their claim as the Tribunal did not consider vegetarianism to amount to a philosophical belief. Although the Tribunal did accept that the Claimant held a genuine belief, “the belief must have have a similar status or cogency to religious beliefs. Clearly having a belief relating to an important aspect of human life or behaviour is not enough in itself for it to have similar status or cogency to a religious belief.”

Discrimination claims

It is against the law to harass, discriminate against or dismiss anyone because of:

  • age
  • sex
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation

We have helped many clients to bring successful claims to the Employment Tribunal. If you feel you have been discriminated against please contact us. We will be happy to discuss your claim and advise on whether to proceed. Call 0114 220 1795 or email



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