Animal rights charity pension fund in legal row with vegan ‘whistleblower’
Animal welfare charity League Against Cruel Sports – which was instrumental in securing the UK’s fox-hunting ban – is caught up in legal dispute over claims that a former employee was dismissed after he told colleagues that its pension fund invested in companies that have been involved in animal testing.
The former employee, a vegan activist who describes himself as a whistleblower says that his beliefs should be protected under the Equality Act and claims that he was dismissed because of his ‘whistle blowing’ – something that his former employer has vehemently denied.
Jordi Casamitjana, a Calatonian who is crowdfunding to raise money for his legal action, has instructed law firm Bindmans to fight his case which will draw attention to the practice of “ethical veganism”. Unlike “health vegans” who choose not to eat meat, fish and dairy for their own personal wellbeing, ethical vegans consider the broader impact of how they spend their money on animal welfare.
As part of his crowdfunding campaign Casamitjana says after checking the small print on the league’s pension, he says, that he discovered it was apparently “investing in companies, including pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, who are known to engage in animal testing”.
He had previously worked for the league from 2004 to 2007 and then returned to the league in 2016 as head of policy and research, before being dismissed in April this year.
On his crowdjustice crowdfunding page he claimed that when he wrote to colleagues to tell them that their pension was being invested in non-ethical funds, and that there were alternatives to the single alternative that the company was suggesting, he was sacked and was given no appeal hearing.
In a report in The Observer, the League Against Cruel Sports that, until 2015, its staff were automatically enrolled into an “ethical” pension fund, but the Financial Conduct Authority, the body responsible for pensions, changed the regulations and the fund became ineligible.
Andrew Knott, interim CEO at League Against Cruel Sports, told The Observer: “We followed financial advice and changed our pension, while still offering the chance for individuals to change their own fund to an ethical fund. Mr Casamitjana was not dismissed because he raised concerns about the pension, either internally or externally, so there is no substance to his claims that he was ‘whistleblowing’.
“All staff were informed about the situation and the processes in place to enable them to make their own choices. The reason for his dismissal is different from that which he states but clearly this is confidential information which we are respecting.”
The case comes at a difficult time for the league. Its chief executive has stood down for health reasons and its chair is due to depart soon.
“Given the nature of our work, the league is often the subject of attacks from all sorts of quarters,” Knott said adding then Leagues shares vegan practices “across our wider staff and when meeting with supporters, many of whom are not vegan”. We reject any suggestions otherwise,” he added.
A date has not been set for the legal challenge. On the first day of launching its crowdfunding Casamitjana ha received more than a quarter of his total funds needed to bring the legal action.