A FORMER charity worker who claims he was fired from his job due to "anti-vegan discrimination" has launched a landmark legal action which could see veganism afforded the same protections as religion.
Jordi Casamitjana, 54, alleges he was sacked by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) in April after he "discovered that their pension fund was invested in companies involved in animal testing".
Casamitjana, who describes himself as an "ethical vegan", claims he was discriminated against and a tribunal in London will now decide whether veganism is a "philosophical or religious belief".
A ruling in favour of the Spanish-born animal rights activist could grant vegans broad protections across employment, education and housing.
"For me, veganism is a belief and affects every single aspect of my life," Casamitjana told the BBC.
"This is not a hearing to determine whether I was unfairly dismissed, or suffered any detriment because of my beliefs, or because I blew the whistle.
"It's a hearing to decide the legal status of the belief in ethical veganism".
On the subject of his "ethical" veganism, Casamitjana added: "Some people eat a vegan diet but they don't care about the environment or the animals, they only care about their health.
"I care about the animals and the environment and my health, everything."
However, the League Against Cruel Sports claims Casamitjana was dismissed for gross misconduct and denies the sacking was linked to his veganism.
A spokesperson for LACS, which describes itself as a "vegan-friendly employer", said: "The discussion about veganism being a 'philosophical belief' is a thought-provoking one which many of our staff will be interested in.
"However, this debate has absolutely no connection with why Mr Casamitjana was sacked. Casamitjana was not dismissed because he raised concerns about the pension, either internally or externally, so there is no substance to his claims that he was 'whistleblowing'."
In order for a belief to be protected under the Equality Act 2010, it must meet strict criteria such as being "worthy of respect in a democratic society, not being incompatible with human dignity and not conflicting with the fundamental rights of others".
Vegans are not currently afforded any legal protections in Britain, although The Vegan Society claims that discrimination against them is common in UK workplaces.
"If you are having problems at work because of your belief in veganism, or your commitment to vegan living, then this could be considered harassment in the eyes of the law, and is most definitely not okay,” the society’s website states.