hunt saboteur is bringing a landmark discrimination claim – after
he was allegedly sacked by a garden centre because of his "philosophical"
objection to blood sports.
Hashman's undercover filming helped convict celebrity chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright
of attending illegal hare coursing. Joe Hashman, 42, is arguing that his
anti-hunting beliefs deserve protection in the workplace. Mr Hashman's undercover
filming helped convict celebrity chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright of attending
illegal hare coursing. The next day, the owners of the centre allegedly
had him sacked by email because they were keen fox hunters. He was instructed
not to bother coming back to work.
professional gardener is suing Orchard Park Garden Centre, of Gillingham,
Dorset, for discrimination on the grounds of philosophical belief. The centre's
owners Sheila Clarke and Ron Clarke are keen supporters of the South and
West Wiltshire Hunt, and its company secretary Lucinda Stokes is the former
joint Master of the Hunt.
were also allegedly heightened by the death of a keen local huntsman with
whom Mr Hashman had regular run-ins over the years. Married father-of-two
Mr Hashman, of nearby Shaftesbury, is seeking £50,000 for loss of
earnings and injury to feelings.
claims that his concern about the environment, animal rights, veganism and,
in particular, his opposition to hunting, amount to a philosophical belief
under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003. His
case comes after property executive Tim Nicholson, 42, won a judges ruling
that his green beliefs were as worthy of protection as religious ones. Mr
Nicholsons strong views on climate change went beyond a mere opinion, it
Hashman succeeds in his claim next year it could open the floodgates to
other cases. His solicitor Shah Qureshi, of law firm Bindmans, said: If
Joe succeeds, it will give protection to the many people whose belief in
animal rights is central to the way they live.
would no longer be able to discriminate against them merely because of those
beliefs. It would confirm that, under the newly enacted Equality Act, it
is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their philosophical
beliefs about the sanctity of animal life and more specifically hunting.
It would widen
the categories of people who are protected by the law
Mr Hashman began attending animals rights demos in 1982 aged 14. He became
a life member of the Hunt Saboteurs Association in 1984 and is a consultant
on hunting issues for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
the European Court of Human Rights overturned an English courts decision
to bind over Mr Hashman for blowing a horn and shouting at a hunt, ruling
that it breached his right to freedom of expression. He has appeared extensively
on TV and radio, written for national newspapers campaigning against hunting
and worked with organisations such as the RSPCA, Animal Aid, Compassion
in World Farming and the League Against Cruel Sport.
has had several books published on fruit and vegetable gardening and was
hired by the centre in March 2009 as a designer. In September, his covert
video evidence of Dickson-Wight, 63, at a hare coursing event in North Yorkshire
in 2007 helped convict her at Scarborough Magistrates' Court.
International Fund for Animal Welfare took her to court in a private prosecution
after the Crown Prosecution Service refused to pursue the matter. But the
chef, best known for the TV show Two Fat Ladies, was given an absolute discharge
with the prosecution estimated to have cost the IFAW as much as £80,000.
to legal papers submitted by Mr Hashman to Southampton Employment Tribunal,
the garden centres managing director Richard Cumming emailed him the day
after the court case. He wrote: "Hi Joe for a whole host of reasons
would you mind giving the garden centre a miss tomorrow please. I need to
come and talk to you as various issues have been thrown up and I will do
that as soon as I can."
funeral of keen huntsman Andrew Prater, who died in a tragic accident at
an agricultural show, was also due to take place the following day. Mr Cumming
later spoke to Mr Hashman by phone.
legal papers allege: Mr Cumming confirmed that his contract had been terminated
because Lucinda Stokes, Sheila Clarke and her husband, as board members,
were not happy that the claimant was working for Orchard Park because he
was an animal-rights activist and a hunt saboteur. He confirmed that tensions
were particularly high in relation to the claimant because of Andrew Praters
death and the conviction of Clarissa Dickson-Wright for hare coursing offences.
Prater was a well known hunt servant and employee of the Clarkes, whom the
claimant had a number of antagonistic encounters with in his capacity as
an anti-hunt activist. Clarissa Dickson-Wrights conviction was partly as
a result of evidence provided by the claimant.
advised the claimant that the Orchard Park board was not prepared to sanction
any further payments to the claimant.
had been working on a vegetable garden at the centre and says his employers
had not previously voiced any dissatisfaction with his performance.
papers say: "He has devoted his working and non-working life to protecting
and promoting awareness of his understanding of the sanctity of life.
he has devoted himself to veganism, environmentalism and animal rights activism,
all of which he regards as part of his prevailing belief in the sanctity
of life, active opposition to hunting has always been his principal area
of expertise and focus.
is abhorrent to the claimant because of his philosophical belief and he
has therefore devoted an extremely large proportion of his time to campaigning
against hunting and protecting animals from hunting."
today, Mr Hashman said: "It is my fundamental belief that it is
wrong to kill animals for sport. "I don't think anyone should be discriminated
against at work because of their views on issues such as hunting. "Hunting
arouses huge passions for and against but in the workplace, work should
be work. "It is unacceptable that I should suffer in the workplace
because I feel strongly that hunting is morally wrong. "Politics and
morality as to how we live our lives should not be brought into the workplace.
"This is how people behaved years ago. I thought we had grown up as
a society so that people with fundamentally opposed views on issues could
live and work alongside each other. "We have all got to breathe the
same air, drink the same water and share the same space after all."
Mr Hashman won £10,000 in compensation after succeeding in an unfair
dismissal claim against Shaftesbury Town Council.
was sacked from his post as head groundsman after a row with a pest controller
over pigeons nesting on the town hall balcony.
tribunal found that the council's disciplinary procedure was "fatally
Park and its bosses deny Mr Hashmans claim of discrimination. They deny
that Mr Hashman was dismissed because of his beliefs and insist that he
lost his job because the vegetable plot was not financially viable.
director Richard Cumming said: "The company has no policy either way
about hunting. We have a healthy range of opinions about hunting among our
board and staff and it does not drive our policy. The timing of Mr Hashman
going was coincidental.
are a small country garden centre. We let Mr Hashman build a demonstration
vegetable garden to try and help him and create interest among customers.
we did not get enough people going to look at it. It was not cost effective
and we ended it."
also maintain that his anti-hunting beliefs do not amount to a philosophical
belief in law.
sued property firm Grainger Plc over his redundancy, alleging that his green
views had put him at odds with other senior executives at the firm.
an undisclosed five figure, out-of-court settlement after losing his £77,000-a-year
post as head of sustainability in the firms Putney, south-west London office.