A professional gardener who alleges he was sacked because he strongly opposes blood sports has commenced employment tribunal action for unlawful discrimination.
Joe Hashman, 42, claims the owners of Orchard Park Garden Centre in Gillingham, Dorset -- fox hunters Sheila and Ron Clarke -- sacked him after they found out he secretly filmed celebrity chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright at an illegal hare coursing event in North Yorkshire in March 2007. Apparently the footage was used to successfully convict Dickson-Wright, 63, of an offence under the Hunting Act last year in a private prosecution brought by the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Mr and Ms Clarke are both "keen supporters of the South and West Wiltshire Hunt", and their company secretary Lucinda Stokes is the former joint Master of the Hunt.
Father-of-two Mr Hashman is claiming £50,000 for loss of earnings and injury to feelings.
He claims that his concern about the environment, animal rights, and veganism amount to a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003.
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."
Orchard Park Garden Centre, however, has denied it dismissed Mr Hashman because of his beliefs. Instead, it argues he was dismissed because the vegetable plot he designed was not financially viable.
Managing 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.
"We 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.
"Sadly, we did not get enough people going to look at it. It was not cost effective and we ended it."