Article by: Makbool Javaid, partner – Simons Muirhead & Burton |
Makbool Javaid, partner – Simons Muirhead & Burton
July 18, 2022
In Ms S Free Miles v The Royal Veterinary College, Shakira Free Miles is a veterinary nurse. She believes that animal life has innate value and that humans should not eat, wear, sport, experiment with or benefit from animals and that humans have a moral obligation to take positive action to prevent or reduce animal suffering. She testified that this included trespassing on private property to expose animal suffering and removal of suffering animals. She said she supported disobeying unjust laws if it was done to expose animal suffering. She calls this belief “ethical veganism.”
Ms Free Miles worked at the Royal Veterinary College. The Police Counter-Terrorism Unit opened an investigation into Ms Free Miles’ activities (and she was subsequently charged and was due to stand trial at the time of the Employment Court hearing). It is believed she had broken into and rescued animals, at least one animal which had been cared for by colleagues and kept by Ms Free Miles in the accommodation provided to her by RVC and where no animals were allowed.
RVC undertook its own investigation into whether it had damaged RVC’s reputation, among other things. Police shared various social media accounts and posts, including a LinkedIn account that identified her as an RVC employee, as well as animals being treated at the hospital where she worked without proper consents. One post was headlined “We have a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
A disciplinary hearing was held in her absence, Ms Free Miles having once postponed and being told it could take place if she did not show up. Four of the allegations were confirmed with three found to be gross misconduct and she was summarily fired.
She then seized the labor court for unfair dismissal, direct and indirect discrimination for philosophical conviction and breach of contract.
Dismissing his claims, Labor Judge Harjit Grewal concluded: ‘[Her] belief that she was morally obligated to take positive action to prevent or reduce animal suffering, which included animal trespassing and removal and its manifestation was not a philosophical belief.
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