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Animal rights campaigner claims he was sacked for his views on fox hunting
Daily Telegraph. 11 January 2010.

Animal rights campaigner claims he was sacked for his views on fox hunting

An animal rights campaigner yesterday brought a landmark legal challenge claiming he was sacked from working at a garden centre because of his views on fox hunting.

Joe Hashman alleges he was forced out of his job as a gardener after his pro-hunting employers discovered he was a leading animal welfare activist. The 42-year-old yesterday sought to convince an employment tribunal that his opinions amount to a philosophical belief and that they led to him being discriminated against at work.

If successful, the case could open the gates to a flood of similar claims from workers who believe they have been dismissed because of their beliefs on animal rights. The vegan and former professional tennis coach was sacked from Orchard Park Garden Centre in Gillingham, Dorset, in September 2009 - a day after covert video footage he filmed helped convict celebrity chef Clarissa Dickson Wright of attending an illegal hare coursing event.

He claims he was unaware when he took the job that the centre was owned by farmers Sheila and Ron Clarke, who are keen supporters of the South and West Wiltshire Hunt - or that they knew he had been a hunt saboteur since the age of 14. However, he claims that after finding out, they dismissed him purely because of his beliefs, rather than the quality of his work running a vegetable patch to encourage customers to grow their own produce.

He fought back tears yesterday as he set out his views to a pre-hearing review to determine whether they qualify as a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003.

The married stepfather-of-two said: 'My beliefs affect every aspect of my life on a daily basis. Believing in animal rights means believing in the sanctity of all life. I believe that hunting is completely morally unacceptable. I don't believe that that there can be any justification for the horrible husbandry techniques and slaughter methods which humans employ just to feed themselves. I am devoted to the causes arising from my philosophical belief and I will not stop fighting for animal rights.'

Mr Hashman added that he is a life member of the Hunt Saboteurs Association and has spent almost three decades disrupting hunts and working as an undercover investigator into animal abuse. The garden centre denies his claims, insisting that his beliefs played no part in his dismissal. They claim that his vegetable patch was not making them enough money. Their lawyers rejected the notion that his views on animal rights and hunting constitute a philosophical belief. They also argued that Mr Hashman was not genuinely committed to animal rights because he continued to work for the garden centre after he learned that the owners were pro-hunting. It has been reported that Mr Hashman is seeking �50,000 in damages from the company, however, he insisted yesterday that his claim 'has nothing to do with money'. He added: 'This is the third time in my life that I have lost a job because of my beliefs. I now have a job again which I love but, because I have been around the block, I know that it wouldn't take much to lose that as well. I want to keep this job until I retire, so this is about securing my future, because I am fed up with losing jobs I love because people cannot forget things that have happened in the past.

It's about saying that we (my employers and I) might disagree on hunting but when it comes to work, just leave me alone.' Judge Lawrence Guyer reserved judgement on the issue of philosophical beliefs. The case will go ahead on a date to be fixed pending his decision.

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