Vegetarianism – is it a Belief Under the Equality Act?

29 September 2019

The Tribunal held at a preliminary hearing in Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd and others that vegetarianism was not a belief qualifying for protection under the Equality Act 2010.

In this case, Mr Conisbee alleged that he suffered discrimination on the ground of religion or belief, his belief being vegetarianism. The Respondent and the Tribunal accepted that the Claimant was a vegetarian and had a genuine belief in his vegetarianism.

The Tribunal held that the belief failed to meet the legal hurdles for protection and that it was simply not enough to have an opinion based on some real, or perceived, logic. Whilst, the belief was genuinely held and was worthy of respect in a democratic society it failed on the following grounds:

  • It did not concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. The Tribunal held that the belief was not about human life and behaviour and instead it related to a lifestyle choice, namely Mr Conisbee’s view that the world would be a better place if animals were not killed for food;
  • It did not attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance. The Tribunal found that people may be vegetarians for a number of different reasons including: lifestyle, health, diet, concern about the way animals are reared for food and personal taste. In reaching its decision the Tribunal contrasted vegetarianism with veganism stating that that the reasons for being a vegan appear to be largely the same and that there was therefore a clear cogency and cohesion in vegan belief; and
  • It did not have a similar status or cogency to religious beliefs.

It is important to note that this decision is not binding on other Tribunals, however, it is a useful indicator as to how tribunals are determining whether vegetarianism will be protected under the Equality Act. The Tribunal’s comments on veganism, again whilst not binding highlight that this may amount to a belief under the Equality Act.