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Belief in animal rights constitutes a philosophical belief

Joe Hashman, a gardener, has won the right to pursue a claim against his former employer that he was discriminated against contrary to the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, when his was dismissed, allegedly, because  his pro-hunting bosses discovered that he was an animal rights activist.

Joe Hashman claims he was sacked from his job as a designer at a garden centre, because the owners and a board member, who was a joint master of the hunt, were unhappy that he was working at the centre when they found out that he was an animal rights activist and hunt saboteur.

The employer contends that his dismissal was nothing to do with his beliefs but was because his vegetable patch was not generating enough money. But they argued as a preliminary issue that Mr Hashman’s beliefs were “incoherent, inconsistent, politically motivated by class war and that they endorsed violence” so were not worthy of respect and therefore did not qualify as a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.
 
Mr Hashman gave evidence that he was firmly against hunting and had protested, demonstrated, sabotaged, monitored, infiltrated, filmed undercover and worked politically against it since 1982. The tribunal ruled that the Mr Hashman had demonstrated a belief in the sanctity of life. He believes that people should live their lives with mindful respect for animals and we all have a moral obligation to live in a way which is kind to each other, our environment and our fellow creatures. This belief extends to his fervent anti-foxhunting belief (and also anti-hare coursing belief) and such beliefs constitute a philosophical belief for the purposes of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. Therefore, the case could proceed to a full hearing. The judge emphasised that his decision was based very much on the facts and not everyone opposed to fox hunting necessarily holds a philosophical belief within the meaning of the law.

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