An employment tribunal has allowed a claim for discrimination to proceed on the basis that a gardener’s belief in anti fox hunting constituted, on the facts, a philosophical belief capable of protection under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.
In Hashman v Milton Park (Dorset) Ltd t/a Orchard Park, Mr Hashman was dismissed as a gardener from a garden centre, allegedly because the majority shareholders of Orchard Park, who were keen hunters, became aware of his animal rights activism. Mr Hashman (curiously represented at tribunal by a Mr Hare) described his belief system as: ‘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’. The tribunal accepted that his beliefs fell within his general commitment to the sanctity of life.
It is noteworthy that the courts are taking a liberal approach to the interpretation of ‘philosophical belief’ in the Regulations whereas the final EHRC Code was narrowed down from its earlier draft. However, the tribunal judge emphasised that this case very much turned on its facts and not every case of anti-fox hunting/ animal rights activism will fall within the ambit of philosophical belief.