The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism event in September addressed veganism in the workplace. An interesting legal case was presented by the lawyer who represented the vegan and zoologist Jordi Casamitjana at an employment tribunal. Briefly, Jordi claimed unfair dismissal. He discovered that his employer was investing contributions to his pension fund in companies which tested on animals. After notifying them, without liitle result, he found a way of separating his payments from the companies to which he objected and explained how others could do the same.
The importance of the case is in the judgement that ethical veganism is protected under the Equal Rights Act 2010 in the same way as other religions or philosophical beliefs. This must go beyond a viewpoint or dietary preference, to contain a moral imperative at its heart. The judge said he had no hesitation in deciding that ethical veganism in this case fulfilled the necessary tests.
Although a tribunal is not binding, it is persuasive and employers will be concerned to heed this judgement as the number of vegans increases. It will also affect other areas. Like early Quakers, vegans are sometimes seen as ‘troublemakers’ (and not necessarily angelic) or at least an irritation.
Friends House has made great progress in terms of the catering facilities. But does this case raise concerns about where for instance our contributions to Britain Yearly Meeting are invested, or to whom we rent our premises, or whether there are vegan soaps in the toilets? It would be a good discussion point.
‘Extreme political stances’
The government has recently issued guidance to schools which instructs them not to use resources from organisations that take extreme political stances. Such stances are held to include a desire to end capitalism or the endorsement of illegal activities or the failure to condemn such activities carried out in pursuit of a cause.
Such guidance could easily be made to apply to the Society, as well as to, for example, Extinction Rebellion. It is illiberal, authoritarian and, indeed, dangerously extremist in its implications. Considering all that we now know of the damage that capitalism has inflicted on the planet, the educational system needs to be able to draw freely on a critique of it.
I hope that Friends, individually and corporately, will take this up with their MP or with the government and seek to get the guidance amended or withdrawn.
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