Swiss government: no military exemption for vegans

Military recruits in canton Bern get food from a mobile kitchen, designed to provide catering in the field of duty Keystone

Vegans should not be automatically excluded from Swiss military service, the government has ruled in response to a parliamentary motion calling for such a policy. 

This content was published on May 25, 2017 - 13:50

Claiming that the Swiss army had recently “been ridiculed by a vegan soldier", parliamentarian Jean-Luc Addor from the conservative right Swiss People’s Party filed a motion calling for all vegans to be excluded from serving in Switzerland’s military. 

Addor was referring to a vegan recruit from his home canton of Valais who made headlines last year for refusing to wear leather boots. The recruit was initially declared unfit for military duty, against his will, because he would not be able to maintain a vegan diet while serving in the army. However, that decision was ultimately overturned and he will complete his military service in 2018. 

In its response to Addor’s motion, the Swiss government – the country’s council of seven ministers – said that according to Switzerland’s constitution, military service applies to every citizen regardless of opinions, religion or dietary habits. Therefore, following a particular diet does not constitute a reason for automatic exclusion from service, it ruled. 

A medical commission evaluates each recruit to see whether that person would face significant difficulties during military service due to food or equipment issues. The government said that for that reason, a blanket exclusion for vegans is not necessary. 

Switzerland requires military service from most men, and women may serve if they wish. Men who are declared unfit for service or who object to serving in a military capacity must generally fulfill civil service requirements instead. 

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