In Hashman v Milton Park (Dorset) Ltd an Employment Tribunal held that a belief in the sanctity of life, including the lives of animals, was a ‘philosophical belief’ and protected under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. Therefore the employee was protected from being treated less favourably because of their philosophical belief.

The employee in this case was a fervent anti-hunting activist. He had been involved in animal welfare issues since he was 13 when he attended his first animal rights demonstration. He had been actively involved in animal rights issues for 30 years and was an active member of the Hunt Saboteurs Association and a committed vegan.

The Tribunal followed the test set out in Grainger (the case which decided that belief in climate change could be a protected belief). The test states that:

1. A belief has to be genuinely held; and
2. it must be a belief, not an opinion or a viewpoint; and
3. it must be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour; and
4. it must be able to attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance; and
5. it must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and not in conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

In both the Grainger and Hashman cases, the employees had incorporated their beliefs in to their lives in practical ways. This gives some comfort to employers and suggests that for a belief to be protected, it must have a significant impact on how an employee chooses to live his or her life.

Interestingly, the successful claimant was represented before the tribunal by a barrister by the name of Mr Hare – you couldn’t make it up.

This information is believed to be correct as of the date published. It is not a substitute for legal advice and no liability attaches to its use. Specific and personal legal advice should be taken on any individual matter.