To some, objecting to something as grisly as fox hunting is a sign of character and compassion. To others, it’s a firing offense.

Joe Hashman, a prominent U.K. gardener, has lost his job over philosophical objections to bloodsports. Hashman worked as a gardener at Orchard Park Garden Center, of Gillingham, Dorset. He is also a tireless anti-hunting activist. This apparently didn’t sit well with his employers.

According to The Telegraph, the center’s owners — Sheila Clarke and Ron Clarke — are “keen supporters” of foxhunting, as is company secretary Lucinda Stokes. Hashman’s efforts on behalf of animals eventually led to his dismissal.

The catalyst appears to be the conviction of celebrity chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright for illegal hunting in 2000. Dickson-Wright, former co-host of the cooking program Two Fat Ladies, was convicted of attending two hare-coursing events in March 2007. Hare-coursing, according to The Times, involves hares being “driven by beaters into a field to be chased by greyhounds,” and was outlawed under the Hunting Act 2004.

Dickson-Wright would no doubt have gotten away with her illegal activities, if it wasn’t for the brave activists who secretly filmed the hunt in progress. One of those brave activists was Joe Hashman. The day after Dickson-Wright’s conviction, he was fired from his job via email.

Never one to back down, Hashman is fighting back. He has brought a lawsuit against Orchard Park Garden Center,  alleging discrimination on the grounds of philosophical belief, and is seeking £50,000 (about $77,000) for loss of earnings and injury to feelings.

Not surprisingly, Hasman’s ex-employers are denying the allegations. “We let Mr. Hashman build a demonstration vegetable garden to try and help him and create interest among customers,” says Orchard Park managing director Richard Cumming. “Sadly, we did not get enough people going to look at it. It was not cost effective and we ended it.”

This is one version of what happened. It’s not the only one. According to his lawyers, Hashman says that, in a telephone conversation with Mr Cumming, “it was confirmed that his contract had been terminated because Lucinda Stokes, Sheila Clarke and her husband, as Board Members, were not happy that he was working for Orchard Park because he was an animal rights activist and hunt saboteur.”

If Joe Hashman can prove that he was fired because of his strong views regarding hunting and animal welfare, he might just win his lawsuit. Philosophical belief is protected in the U.K. under 2003’s Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations. One man, Tim Nicholson, has already won a judgement stating that his strong views on climate change went  “beyond a mere opinion” and amounted to a belief capable of protection under the law. There’s no reason that a deep, philosophical belief in animal rights should not enjoy the same protections as a deep, philosophical belief in climate change.

U.K. labor laws aside, do you think it was fair for Mr. Hashman to be fired because of his pro-animal beliefs? If not, take the time to let Ron and Sheila Clarke know how you feel, and urge them to do what is right to make amends with Mr. Hashman, either by rehiring him or reaching some sort of equitable settlement.

A person’s moral convictions should not be an employment liability.

Photo Credit: Owain.davies

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