A Swiss man is complaining to the Swiss government after being declared unfit for military service because his vegan beliefs mean he refuses to wear any leather.
19-year-old Antoni Da Campo has filed an appeal against the military who made the decision. Deputy spokesperson Gabriela Zimmer, of the logistics base of the Swiss army, told news site 24 hours, “the army sees the efficiency of large units, it cannot adapt to each individual.”
Zimmer went on to say that slight adaptions for things like food allergies such as gluten intolerance or specific religious beliefs that forbid certain foods or require prayer spaces, can be accommodated, but switching something so integral to the military uniform just isn’t feasible. People who aren’t willing to compromise are simply rejected for service.
For most who make these kind of requests they’re usually looking to avoid the mandatory service that Switzerland is famous for. Initially the Swiss army declared Mr. Da Campo fit for service even after going through his strict vegan diet in which he refuses to eat meat, fish, dairy, honey or gelatin. It was the fact that he refused to wear leather which makes up the boots, belts and other aspects of the military uniform, that got his application rejected.
Da Campo told 24 hours he has been a vegan since January 1st of 2015, convinced, like many vegans, of the ethics of not killing animals for food or by-products saying, “the enslavement of beings endowed with mental life not only poses an ethical problem, but also environmental, social and health.”
In wishing to join the army however, he appears to have no problems with the idea of potentially having to kill humans.
He went on to add that he has joined the Animal Equality Association in Switzerland saying, “I am a beginner campaigner. This is a personal fight but I want to lead the vegan cause. If a decision could set a precedent for me, that would be a victory for all those fighting for the rights of animals.”
This case seems to follow an already existing pattern across the armies and police forces of Europe and the western world to adapt to other cultures rather than have cultures adapt to the army. Often the changes have been religious in nature like the Royal Australian Army Chaplain’s motto which is set to change because it had been deemed offensive to Muslims.
Some countries have fought back against efforts to accommodate individuals or even religious groups, wanting instead to integrate them into the norms of society. Randers, a town in Denmark has even taken steps to make pork meat mandatory in schools for the purposes of “upholding Danish culture” according to their city council.