The Southampton Employment Tribunal has ruled that the anti-hunting beliefs held by a notorious animal rights activist are a “philosophical belief”, and therefore are protected against discrimination under employment law.

Josh Hashman, 42, claims he was sacked from his job as a garden designer at Orchard Park Garden Centre in Dorset after his employers Ron and Sheila Clarke, who are members of the South and West Wiltshire Hunt, found out about  his anti-hunting beliefs.

Hashman’s reputation is notorious in hunting circles. Since the age of 15 he has conducted long-running campaigns and undercover investigations to expose those involved in fox hunting and hare coursing.He famously provided video evidence that helped to convict TV chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright in 2009 for attending hare coursing.He said being a “hunt saboteur” and “advocate for animals” has not been easy, and that it has followed him about.

He previously wrote a gardening column under a pseudonym as he feared he would not get the job if the paper knew of his real identity.Hashman says his dismissal from Orchard Park Garden Centre is the third time he has been sacked for his beliefs.He is claiming unfair dismissal against the Clarkes, but in order to prove this, the Tribunal had to agree that anti-hunting beliefs should be protected under employment law in the same way that religious beliefs are protected.

The Clarkes’ lawyers argued that Hashman’s beliefs are “incoherent, inconsistent, politically motivated by class war and that they endorsed violence” and are therefore not worthy of respect.

However, Judge Lawrence Guyer disagreed. He said he shares Hashman’s beliefs that “people should live their lives with mindful respect for animals and we all have a moral obligation to live in a way which is kind to each other, our environment, and our fellow creatures.”He ruled that Hashman’s belief in the sanctity of life “extends to his fervent anti-fox hunting belief” and should be protected under the 2003 regulations in the same way as religion.Hashman is seeking damages for unfair dismissal, and the Employment Tribunal will now proceed to consider his claim.

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