Veganism is a belief and lifestyle whose subscribers do not consume any food or products that have come from animals. There are two kinds of vegans; health and lifestyle. Health vegans refrain from eating animal products due to the health benefits it has. Health vegans include athletes such as boxer David Haye and footballers Sergio Aguero and Jermaine Defoe.
Lifestyle vegans abstain from animal products for ethical reasons. They do not wish to commoditise animals and see them mistreated and killed as a result of human consumption. It is widely accepted that such a belief would be protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
However, could someone reporting vegan issues be making disclosures in the public interest for the purposes of whistleblowing?
Jordi Casamitjana, a lifestyle vegan, was head of policy at League Against Cruel Sports, an animal rights charity that wants to ban all blood sports. Mr Casamitjana became aware that the charity’s pension scheme was investing in companies that tested on animals.
He raised this with the charity and was dismissed after informing colleagues that the company had not switched their pensions to ethical investments. Now, whilst many do not believe veganism is that prevalent, latest figures suggest 7m people in the UK lead vegan lifestyles. That quantity of people would satisfy the public interest element of whistleblowing claims if it was established the disclosure was in their interests.
If it didn’t, case law suggests that disclosures by employees of charities can still qualify as patrons and donors of the charity would be interested to know how the charity operates. Would noted supporters Ricky Gervais, Jo Brand and David Jason want to be patrons/donors if they knew the company invested that way?
If not, if the number of employees of the charity was high enough, that could amount to being in the public interest as per the famous case of Nurohamed v Chesterton. In that case, around 100 employees were sufficient.
Therefore, it seems quite likely that a whistleblowing about anti-vegan investments could succeed. Mr Casamitjana has since set up a donations page to help fund his legal claim against the charity.