In Conisbee v. Crossley Farms Ltd and others, an Employment Tribunal has decided that vegetarianism is not a philosophical belief that qualifies for protection under the Equality Act 2010.
It was accepted that Mr Conisbee’s belief in vegetarianism was genuinely held and worthy of respect in a democratic society. However, the Tribunal found that vegetarianism did not concern a weighty aspect of human life and behaviour. Instead it was a lifestyle choice. Many people decide to be vegetarians for different reasons (lifestyle, health, diet, concern about the way animals are reared for food and personal taste). Therefore a belief in vegetarianism does not have a similar status or cogency to a religious belief.
It is interesting to note that the Tribunal contrasted vegetarianism with veganism, stating that there was a clearer cogency and cohesion in vegan belief because the belief held by each vegan, and underlying motivation for veganism, appear largely to be same (ie. a distinct concern about the way animals are reared, the clear belief that killing and eating animals is contrary to a civilised society, and also against climate control).
The decision isn’t binding on future tribunals, because it is only a first instance decision, but it is an interesting one, and a useful example of how cases on philosophical belief are approached.
For the full judgement: