An anti-hunt campaigner has won a landmark legal battle to have his animal rights views treated in the workplace in the same way as religious beliefs.

Joe Hashman from Shaftesbury claimed he was sacked from Orchard Park Garden Centre in Gillingham because his bosses found out he was a hunt saboteur.

He lost his job in 2009 shortly after his undercover footage helped convict celebrity chef Clarissa Dickson Wright of attending an illegal hare coursing event.

The 42-year-old gardener and writer is taking employers Ron and Sheila Clarke – who are both active in the South and West Wiltshire hunt – to an employment tribunal seeking £50,000 in damages.

At a hearing at Southampton Employment Tribunal Centre, Mr Hashman argued that his views on foxhunting should be treated as a philosophical belief.

Judge Lawrence Guyer backed Mr Hashman’s assertion that his ‘deeply held’ beliefs about the environment, animal rights, veganism and opposition to hunting should be protected under 2003 rules on religious equality at work. After the preliminary ruling in Southampton, a full hearing will be held later this year to decide if Mr Hashman suffered discrimination.

His former bosses have said he was let go because the vegetable patch he ran was not making enough money.