Anti-fox hunting views have been given the same legal footing as religion after a judge ruled that an animal rights campaigner's opinions amounted to philosophical beliefs.
Joe Hashman won the right to sue a garden centre for discrimination after he claimed he was sacked when its pro-hunting bosses discovered he was a leading animal welfare activist.
The management of Orchard Park Garden Centre, in Gillingham, Dorset, fought to prevent Mr Hashman bringing the case, claiming his views did not qualify as philosophical beliefs under employment tribunal rules.
But on Tuesday, an employment judge ruled in favour of Mr Hashman, who is a Western Morning News gardening columnist. In a decision that could pave the way for a procession of similar claims, Judge Lawrence Guyer said: "The claimant has a belief in the sanctity of life.
"This belief extends to his fervent anti fox hunting 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."
The country's leading pro-hunting organisation yesterday told the WMN it was "a shame" Mr Hashman himself failed to respect the beliefs of those in favour of fox hunting. A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: "This issue is not about hunting as much as it is about respect for beliefs, which is important to everyone, even though in this case it could be taking employment legislation to an extreme.
"It is a shame that Mr Hashman, who is so keen that his own beliefs be respected, has so little respect in return for those he has monitored and disrupted over the years as they hold to their own beliefs and manage the fox population in the UK."
The League Against Cruel Sports backed the decision, saying: "It is no-one's right to be cruel to an animal and an individual certainly shouldn't be discriminated against for holding this view."
Mr Hashman, of Shaftesbury, Dorset, said he was "thrilled" that his case would be heard. ...
via Anti-fox hunting views have been given the same legal footing as religion after a judge ruled that an animal rights campaigner's opinions amounted to philosophical beliefs..