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Hunt saboteur was discriminated against

A well-known hunt saboteur who believed in the “sanctity of life” was protected from discrimination, an employment tribunal in Southampton has ruled.

14 March 2011

Employment judge Guyer said that although Joe Hashman had belonged to “various groups that were militant and which admittedly acted on occasions outside the law” his beliefs constituted a “philosophical belief” for the purposes of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

Employers argued that the EAT “opened the floodgates” in 2009 when it ruled in Grainger v Nicholson that a whole range of philosophical beliefs from vegetarianism and pacifism to communism and Darwinism were entitled to the same protection in the workplace as religion (see, 10 November 2009).

Delivering judgment in Hashman v Milton Park (Dorset) (Case no. 3105555/ 2009) Judge Guyer said Hashman claimed the termination of his contract as a gardener at Orchard Park amounted to direct discrimination.

The court heard that the majority shareholders in the company which owned the park were “hunts’ people” and another director was a former joint master of the South and West Wiltshire Hunt.

Judge Guyer said Hashman became a hunt saboteur at the age of 14 and participated in campaigns of civil disobedience.

“He has been a high-profile opponent of hunting for 27 years and has been convicted numerous times on minor public order offences relating to his activities as a hunt saboteur.”

Hashman successfully challenged a High Court injunction against him to stop sabotage at the European Court of Human Rights in 1999.

Judge Guyer said Hashman “had a belief that people should live their lives with mindful respect for animals and that we all have a moral obligation to live in a way which is kind to each other, the environment and fellow creatures.

“His views against fox hunting and hare coursing were philosophical and part of the wider belief.”

Judge Guyer added that his ruling was “very much based on the facts” and he did not suggest that “everyone who is opposed to fox hunting” holds a belief which would be covered by the regulations.

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Discrimination Contracts & Rights Agricultural