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Legal protection of ethical vegans - Peter Daly, Jordi Casamitjana's solicitor

Jordi Casamitjana's solicitor Peter Daly speaks out just after the ruling of the tribunal. Find out what the sentence will change for ethical vegans in UK and around the world.
Peter Daly, thank you for being on Veggie Channel. Peter Daly from "Slater and Gordon Lawyers" is with us today to tell about the ruling that has taken place on the 3rd of January about the case of Jordi Casamitjana. How are you? How do you feel after this ruling? 
Yeah, very positive. It's good result. We're very happy with it.
What was about the ruling and how difficult was to win? Actually you won the sentence.
So Jordi's claim is a claim for discrimination. He says that he was discriminated against. Discrimination law in the United Kingdom is governed by the Equality Act 2010 and that sets protected characteristics which protect people from discrimination. So they are things like age, race, sex, disability, sexual orientations and so on. One of the protected characteristics is philosophical belief. And the way that philosophical believe discrimination works is that you have to convince showing a court that a person's philosophical belief meets the required tests. And therefore the person is protected from discrimination. Now in the case of ethical veganism, that has never before been recognized by the courts as a protected characteristic. 
So the court case on Friday the 3rd of January was all about providing the evidence, both documentary evidence and witness evidence, to show firstly that the belief in principle met the required tests and then secondly that Jordi personally held that belief. That required us to prepare about 1400 pages of documentary evidence, which covered everything from the definitions of veganism, the historical background to it, Jordi's personal lifestyle and philosophical beliefs. And we also had to prepare quite extensive witness evidence from Jordi, from a doctor, a PhD holder in veganism and a moral philosopher from Oxford University. He gave evidence of what moral philosophy and how moral philosophers treat ethical veganism. 
So we were happy to put that and we placed that before the judge on Thursday. The judge spent all of Thursday reading the documents. And then the hearing on Friday was actually very quick indeed. There are no questions for any of the witnesses and within about an hour the judge read out a very brief summary judgments in which he concluded that ethical veganism meets the test in principle and that Jordi's belief in particular was protected. What we get now, we will get a more detailed written judgment. I don't have a timeframe for that. But I expect it relatively soon. Then we will have a second hearing which at the moment is scheduled to take place starting on the 20th February. That hearing will be about the treatment that Jordi experienced by his employer which is the basis of the claim that we're bringing.
Peter, was this the first time you had a case like this? I mean defending a vegan. Was it the first time that happened to you?
On behalf of the vegan, yes. There was a case regarding a vegetarian in court with the same judge last summer. Unfortunately that individual was not successful and vegetarianism was not held to be a philosophical belief in the same way that ethical veganism is. But as far as I'm aware, it's the first time that veganism has been tested in court in this way in the UK.
So do you think after this ruling, in the future, are you going to be able to defend other cases like this? I mean when somebody is going to be badly treated at work, for example, you're going to be able to defend him?
Yeah, so I would expect so. Each case turns on its own facts. As I mentioned earlier, there is this kind of two-stage test with the philosophical belief because you have to consider the belief itself and then also the individuals particular interpretation of the belief. In Jordi Casamitjana's case, Jordi has been an ethical vegan about 18 years. He has become a very sophisticated follower of ethical veganism. He is very deep thinker and he's considered the impact that his life has on animals. I mean, he goes into great depth and consideration into how we can reduce his personal impact. Somebody who has only recently become an ethical vegan may not necessarily be as sophisticated as Jordi and may not have had the time to go to the same extent of his similar nature of the belief. But the case that we brought was very much, that although Jordi was a very sophisticated ethical vegan, you don't need to have that degree of depth in order to attract the protection of the legislation. And in fact, you can be an individual who believes in ethical veganism and who understands the belief not to the same extent as Jordi, you can even be an individual who from time to time makes errors or does not may do something that is not ethically vegan; that does not mean that you don't hold the belief. Philosophical belief discrimination is quite close to religious discrimination in the legislation.
I was about to ask you, Peter: in respect of the British law, if there is any difference between a religious belief and an ethical philosophical belief?
There are some differences but not so many. The main difference is this two-stage step that you have to follow to get the philosophical belief recognized, because of course the major religions are already recognized. The foundation of this legislation, of this law rests on the recognition that, although there are five, six, seven major religions, actually got some people have very deeply held in genuine philosophical beliefs, which also need to be recognized and which are also capable of protection. That's the main distinction between religious and philosophical belief in UK law. And I believe I'm right in saying that it's very similar approach is taken under the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 9 of the convention.
How difficult do you think is going to be for an Italian lawyer to take the inspiration for what you have already done in England and transfer it to Italy, to the Italian legislation?
I'm not an Italian lawyer. I need to be very careful not to give an opinion on Italian law because it's an opinion I know very little about. It's an area I know very little about. But what underpins discrimination law in the United Kingdom is the European Convention on Human Rights and various EU laws, such as equal treatment directed and so on and so forth. The relevant articles of the convention, and an article 9 in particular, mean that I have no doubt that you will be able to apply the same principles that come from our judgment across the EU and across the the Convention States. So how an Italian lawyer would do it, I could not tell you. But that's an Italian lawyer could do it, I would be reasonably confident.
Do you think your case is going to be taken as a reference, as there is a huge media broadcasting of your case around the world? It's amazing: in only a few days you've been on all the newspapers around the world. So what do you think your case is going to produce for the vegan rights around the world?
One of the reasons why I think the case has attracted so much attention is because it's an idea, it's a concept whose time has come. In fact, it has been here for quite some time. The broad principles that we had to apply to show that this was a cogent belief, to show that it was a belief not just an opinion or a viewpoint, to show that this was something that was worthy of protection in a democratic society that does not infringe upon the rights of others. These are principles which will apply across the world and across jurisdictions. What I hope of although, we don't yet have it, but I think we will get it, but I'm hopeful of is that we get a very detailed written judgment with fully formed reasons, which explain precisely why ethical veganism in principle, and Jordi's belief in particular, meet these kind of universal standards and principles. Which means that a somebody across the world as long as there's a relatively clear and coherent discrimination framework in local law, they will be able to apply the same reasons and bring similar case.
Do you think a lawyer needs to be vegan to understand the ambition of Jordi Casamitjana? I mean, do you have to be a vegan yourself to defend a person like Jordi?
No, and I'm not a vegan. Although I'm currying Veganuary. My daughter is vegan. My wife is 99% vegan. I think, I'm having spent so much time with Jordi and having spent so much time considering these issues and beginning to recognize that it's only a matter of time. Maybe the question should not be do you need to be a vegan to bring this case? Maybe the question should be can you remain a non-vegan after you have taken that out? I don't know the answer too but I'm thinking may be not.
This was the first part of the step. Step number one is ended happily, you won it. What's going to be now that you're going to have the second part?
The step one was about the belief, and about the status of the belief, and about the stages of Jordi's belief. And now that we've established that we passed that hurdle, we've now got to move on to the stage of was Jordi discriminated against because of his belief. And so, while we've been considering up to now the broad principles, now we descending into the detail of what happened to Jordi in his employment. You'll appreciate I can't go into huge details about that, because that's still live litigation. And while I have a view on what happened, the respondent the other side, Jordi's former employer, their view differs from mine, and it wouldn't be fair for me to kind of...
No problem. Thank you very much Peter Daly from “Slater and Gordon” for being on Veggie Channel today. See you again, see you soon. Welcome in Italy, if you want to visit us.
Thank you, I much appreciate it.
This is a video of the web-tv Veggie Channel.
Director: Massimo Leopardi
Editor: Julia Ovchinnikova

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Jordi Casamitjana

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