An animal welfare charity is facing legal action from a former employee who says he was fired after raising concerns about the organization’s pension investments and its links to companies that engage in animal testing.
Jordi Casamitjana alleges the League Against Cruel Sports, a British charity that campaigns against activities like dog fighting and hunting, fired him earlier this year based on his moral beliefs as an “ethical vegan.”
Casamitjana’s brought the issue to Britain’s employment tribunal. A hearing is set for March to determine whether veganism is a philosophical belief akin to religion and protected under discrimination legislation. If the tribunal rules that veganism is a philosophical belief, it will hold a subsequent hearing to determine whether the employer is guilty of discriminating against Casamitjana.
Casamitjana initially worked for the League Against Cruel Sports from 2004 to 2007 and participated in its defined contribution pension plan, which he says was touted as an ethical plan. When he returned to the organization in 2016, he found the plan had changed.
“When I looked at that fund’s details, I realized there was no word ‘ethical’ in the title, and then when I checked each company, there were many completely unsuitable to an ethical approach because there were pharmaceutical companies that do experiments on animals,” says Casamitjana.
He brought those concerns to his employer. “What they initially did, they recognized there was an issue and they tried to address it,” says Casamitjana. “But I didn’t give up. I had an obligation, considering my philosophical beliefs, to inform my colleagues. I had lots of colleagues who had the same concerns. The consequences of my informing them — I was dismissed.”
The information Casamitjana shared with colleagues wasn’t confidential and employees were able to look up the information themselves, he adds.
The League Against Cruel Sports denies any discrimination. In a statement, a spokesperson said the former employee was dismissed for “gross misconduct” and that it wasn’t related to his veganism.
“As an animal welfare organization, our mission is to protect animals abused and killed because of cruel sports, so naturally we have a large proportion of vegans and vegetarians working for us and have done for many years,” said the spokesperson. “The discussion about veganism being a ‘philosophical belief’ is a thought-provoking one which many of our staff will be interested in. However, this debate has absolutely no connection with why Mr. Casamitjana was sacked.
“It’s sad that one of our former employees, who is passionate about protecting animals, is now trying to bring into disrepute a charity which is not only one of the most important pro-animal voices in this country, but also one of the most vegan-friendly employers.”
Casamitjana disagrees, saying he hadn’t done anything to merit the description of gross misconduct. “My case is a combination of whistleblowing and discrimination,” he says. “My claim is that I was unfairly disciplined because of my whistleblowing, so essentially because of what I said to my colleagues. . . . But I think I was dismissed because I am an ethical vegan.”