‘Militant’ vegan veterinary nurse who was sacked from her job after police raid found rescued turkey in her flat LOSES lawsuit after judge ruled her ethical veganism was NOT a philosophical belief
- Shakira Free Miles had taken the ‘unwell’ bird to her university accommodation
- It was found by police raiding the property over alleged links to protest group
- Ms Free Miles was then a veterinary nurse working for Royal Veterinary College
- The college did its own investigation and found involvement with campaigners
- She was then sacked for gross misconduct but lodged an unfair dismissal claim
- But a judge ruled against her, saying she had not been discriminated against
A vegan veterinary nurse and self-styled ‘animal liberation activist’ who was sacked after she was found keeping a turkey in her flat has lost an unfair dismal case against her former employer.
Shakira Free Miles had taken the ‘unwell’ bird to a veterinary hospital two days after Christmas Day and had then kept it in her university-provided flat, an employment tribunal was told.
But the turkey was discovered by officers who raided the property while investigating her potential involvement in campaign group the Animal Liberation Front.
At the time, Ms Free Miles was an award winning veterinary nurse working for the London-based Royal Veterinary College (RVC).
Bosses at the prestigious veterinary university were alerted to her arrest and subsequently launched an investigation.
They found social media posts where Ms Free Miles was seen holding a piglet in Barcelona under the heading ‘Meat the Victims – One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws’.
They also found she had treated a rabbit that had been taken during a raid on a farm and featured in a Channel 4 documentary called ‘How to steal pigs and influence people’, the panel was told.
Ms Free Miles, whose views were found to be ‘on the more militant end’ of the animal rights movement, was then sacked for gross misconduct after the RVC found she was associated with illegal activities carried out by extreme animal rights groups, the tribunal was told.
The university also found she had been in breach of its ‘no pet policy’ by keeping Dorothy in her flat.
After her dismissal Ms Free Miles attempted to sue her former employers, claiming she had been discriminated against for her ethical veganism beliefs and that she had been unfairly dismissed.
But the panel found that her trespassing and removing animals in a bid to reduce the suffering of animals was not a philosophical belief.
‘Militant’ Shakira Free Miles, a self-styled ‘liberation activist’ from London, had rescued the ‘unwell’ bird and had taken it to a veterinary hospital two days after Christmas Day, an employment tribunal was told. Pictured: Shakira Free Miles
At the time, Ms Free Miles (pictured centre winning an award) was an award winning veterinary nurse working for the London-based Royal Veterinary College (RVC), who were alerted to her arrest and subsequently launched an investigation
Ms Free Miles, who joined RVC in 2015, was based at its Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital in Camden, London.
In 2016, she was named Veterinary Nurse of the Year out of 400 nominations at the Ceva Awards for Animal Welfare.
At the time of the incident in 2019, she lived in a flat owned by the university, paying £340 a month in rent.
The tribunal was told Ms Free Miles, who made her ethical veganism beliefs clear at the start of her employment, would not allow meat or animal products to be put in the fridge she used at flat.
She had also been involved in campaigns relating to certain breeds of dogs being identified as dangerous and had featured in media interviews, including being interviewed by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London about the importance of micro-chipping dogs.
Ms Free Miles, who joined RVC in 2015, was based at its Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital in Camden, London. Pictured: Shakira Free Miles with a chick
The hearing, held in central London, was told: ‘She believes animals’ lives have innate value and that humans should not eat, wear, use for sport, experiment on or profit from animals and that humans have a moral obligation to take positive action to prevent or reduce the suffering of animals.
‘She said in evidence that that included trespass on private property to expose the suffering of animals and the removal of suffering animals.
‘She said she supported disobeying unjust laws if it was done to expose the suffering of animals.’
Despite Ms Free Miles being ‘well aware of’ the no pet policy, in February 2019 the turkey was found in her flat during a raid when police were investigating a ‘number of burglaries’ and thefts suspected to have been conducted by Animal Liberation Front.
Ms Free Miles was arrested and Dorothy, the ‘unwell’ turkey, which had ulcerated infections and was unable to stand, was collected by the RSPCA.
After she was released without charge but under investigation, Ms Free Miles was suspended from work.
The tribunal was told a veterinary surgeon had examined Dorothy in December 2018, with Ms Free Miles saying she had rescued it and it was under her temporary care.
The panel was told: ‘She knew that she was not allowed to have animals in her flat but had felt she had to do something as otherwise the turkey would have died.’
Her Instagram and Twitter accounts revealed Ms Free Miles’ opinions were ‘on the more militant’ end of the animal rights movement, with her attending farm incursions in the UK and abroad with the group Meat the Victims, the panel heard.
When interviewed, Ms Free Miles said she was not a member of any animal liberation or pressure groups, arguing there was a distinction between protests and illegal activities.
The panel heard Ms Free Miles had been charged with criminal offences of conspiracy in connection with animal rights activities in Suffolk and was facing a Crown Court trial. It was also discovered that on her globalanimnalnetwork.org profile she described herself as an expert in fields where she was not and called herself a ‘veterinarian’, suggesting she was a surgeon, the tribunal heard
In June 2020, Ms Free Miles (pictured) was sacked for misconduct for breaching the no pets policy by keeping the turkey and for gross misconduct for posting pictures of people’s pets on social media without permission and for her involvement in Meat the Victims which ‘openly endorsed breaking the law’
But the university was then told Ms Free Miles had been linked to animal stealing, with the Suffolk Counter Terrorism Policing Unit believing she had treated stolen pigs, the tribunal was told.
The panel heard Ms Free Miles had told boss that she had been charged with criminal offences of conspiracy in connection with animal rights activities in Suffolk and was facing a Crown Court trial.
It was also discovered that on her globalanimnalnetwork.org profile she described herself as an expert in fields where she was not and called herself a ‘veterinarian’, suggesting she was a surgeon, the tribunal heard.
In June 2020, she was sacked for misconduct for breaching the no pets policy by keeping the turkey and for gross misconduct for posting pictures of people’s pets on social media without permission and for her involvement in Meat the Victims which ‘openly endorsed breaking the law’.
She then went to the employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal, direct and indirect philosophical belief discrimination and breach of contract.
Dismissing her claims, Employment Judge Harjit Grewal concluded: ‘[Her] belief that she was morally obliged to take positive action to prevent or reduce the suffering of animals, which included trespass and removal of animals and its manifestation was not a philosophical belief.’
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