Blackstone barrister convinces EAT to uphold animal rights ruling

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has rejected a bid made by Orchard Park Garden Centre to challenge an unfair dismissal ruling brought by an ex-employee and animal rights activist.

Orchard Park instructed Dorset firm Maclachlan Solicitors director Mark Griffin to challenge the earlier ruling, which found that discrimination against people with a strong belief in animal rights is unlawful. Nick Smith of Bristol set Queen Square Chambers represented Orchard Park in the EAT.

The ruling is a victory for Blackstone Chambers’ Ivan Hare, who was instructed for the claimant by Bindmans employment head Shah Qureshi.

On 9 December 2009 Mr Hashman, a lifelong animal rights campaigner and hunt saboteur, lodged proceedings claiming that Orchard Park Garden Centre had terminated his contract as a gardener because of his belief in the sanctity of life and, in particular, his opposition to fox hunting and hare coursing. He claimed he was unaware at the time of accepting the position that his employers were pro-hunt supporters.

In a judgment passed on 4 March 2011 Judge Lawrence Guyer ruled that Hashman’s belief in the sanctity of life “extends to his fervent anti-fox hunting belief ” and such beliefs should be protected under 2003 employment regulations.

Orchard Park’s argument that Mr Hashman’s beliefs were incoherent, inconsistent, politically motivated by class war and that they endorsed violence and were therefore not worthy of respect in a democratic society were rejected by the Employment Tribunal.

The appeal was referred to the EAT where Judge Peter Clark decided it “disclosed no reasonable prospects of success” and that the original Employment judge had applied the law correctly.