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An employment tribunal has held in Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd and others that vegetarianism is not a belief qualifying for protection under the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010).

The claimant was employed for 5 months before resigning. He alleged that he had been discriminated against on grounds of his belief in vegetarianism.  At a preliminary hearing an employment tribunal held that this belief did not qualify for protection under the EqA 2010.  It applied the established tests in Grainger Plc v Nicholson and held that although the claimant's vegetarian belief was genuinely held and was worthy of respect in a democratic society, it failed to meet the other criteria necessary for protection.

The claimant's belief did not concern a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.  Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice, and in the claimant's view believing that the world would be a better place if animals were not killed for food. The claimant's belief did not attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.  The tribunal held that the reason for being a vegetarian differs greatly and can relate to lifestyle, diet, concern about the way animals are reared for food and personal taste.  Finally, the claimant's belief in vegetarianism did not have a similar status or cogency to religious beliefs.

Take note: In determining whether a belief qualifies for protection the tribunal will always consider it carefully using the criteria established in Grainger Plc v Nicholson. It seems, following Conisbee, that any argument that vegetarianism qualifies as a protected belief under the EqA 2010 is likely to fail.