The Swiss military has reversed their decision to not allow vegans to serve in the army thanks to now 20-year old, Antoni Da Campo from Valais, Switzerland. The Swiss man who is a strict vegan, was refused acceptance for military service in December 2015 and has won the legal battle by successfully forcing the army to see reason and change its position.
Antoni Da Campo is a militant vegan who is an active member of the Swiss Animal Protection Organization and refuses eat meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and honey or wear animal products such as leather, but he was keen to undergo his service duties like other citizens. He initially passed all the physical fitness and medical tests that the army required but was still pronounced "unfit" for his obligatory service. The army said his vegetarianism was the reason for his rejection, because they felt it would be impossible to cater to his special diet and refusal to wear the official army-issued boots made of leather; even though he agreed he would pay for his own synthetic boots.
In Switzerland, military service is required of all male citizens aged 20, while women can opt to voluntarily join the armed forces for similar service. Da Campo sees this military service as a way to gain valuable experience and claims denying him his right to serve would be unjust. It would also mean that in place of military service he would keep having to pay an additional 3% taxes on his annual income until he turns 30.
Because of Da Campo's unwillingness to yield the army's strong-arm tactics and protect the right of other Swiss vegans, he filed a legal suit against the military in March 2016, making his case before the Lausanne appeal court where he lost. He appealed the verdict and found a favorable outcome the second time in the country's Federal Administrative Court, where he argued that the rejection by the military violated his constitutional human rights to thought on all matters and personal conviction. In his appeal, he stated that forcing him to opt for higher income taxes over warfare as a direct response to his veganism, which was based on philosophical beliefs was in direct violation of and should be regarded as discrimination.
Rather than rule on the case, the Federal Court sensibly ordered that the two parties discuss the matter privately and come to an agreement. In their final stance, army officials relented and accepted to grant Da Campo his freedom to enlist by declaring him “fit” for service. After winning his landmark case, the Swiss man said that vegans had a right to the same treatment as all other citizens and should not be required to pay extra taxes for their personal beliefs.
Though some of the exact details of his service remain unclear and will need to be agreed on, when speaking to 24 Heures Da Campo said it was clear he would pay for vegan boots of his own, rather than the traditionally issued boots. In his statement, he suggested that for his diet preferences, it would be fair to get a stipend from the army that would allow him to take care of his own feeding.
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