Mr Forage and His Newts
In a landmark legal ruling today, Adam Forage, a waiter from Newcastle, was found to have been unfairly dismissed for refusing to shave off his beard.
"I think that this is an absurd miscarriage of justice," said restaurant owner Ally Faggot. "Mr Forage's beard was long, unkempt and dirty, and customers constantly complained that it was dangling in their soup or uncomfortably brushing their necks as he leaned over to collect their crockery. Frankly, it was a health and safety shitstorm - not only was it unbelievably filthy, but other staff were forever tripping over the damn thing as it trailed across the floor. We shall certainly be appealing this ridiculous decision."
What makes this case so unusual was that the tribunal found in favour of Mr Forage not because the demand to remove his beard was discriminatory or a breach of his human rights, but rather because there was, and still is, a small colony of rare newts living in it.
"My client decided some little time ago, most magnanimously I feel, to provide a haven for these poor, defenceless creatures," announced Mr Forage's lawyer, Vincent Squeeze. "I hope you will excuse my rather emotional state, but the fact is that I have rarely, if ever, witnessed such a selfless and noble act. In giving a home to these distressed and bewildered newts - orphans, I might add - my client has not merely brought joy and security to these simple creatures, but he has at the same time shown us all what it is to be compassionate, to be honourable and decent. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Forage has shown us what it is to be human. And yet, rather than lauding this extraordinarily altruistic deed, my client's employers have instead set out to persecute and vilify him. Shame! Shame! Shame, I say! It has been a distressing and uncertain time for all of us who have taken an interest in Mr Forage and his newts, and for everyone who cares about protecting the fauna of our nation. But I am pleased to report... nay, relieved to report that the tribunal has seen sense and agreed that the habitat of these endangered animals must be protected. Amen."
In fact the tribunal agreed on no such thing. They found no reason to suppose that Mr Forage's beard was a site of special scientific interest, but granted it a stay of execution on the technical ground that it couldn't be destroyed without first serving the newts two months' notice to quit.