In effort to accommodate the diets of their vegan service members, The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has announced that they will be including some completely plant-based dining options in their mess halls and providing leather-free boots and wool-free berets. The move comes after a protest sparked in October brought to light that vegan service members were not having their dietary needs met under current policies. The plant-based soldier in question previously had to assert that they were vegan in the physical presence of a lawyer and then were given a monthly allowance of 350-550 shekels ($74.50-$140) for food.
That might sound all well and good, but according to an open letter on the matter, “The allowance given to vegan soldiers is intended to allow equality between a vegan soldier and a ‘regular’ soldier, but it is clear to everyone that 15–25 shekels is enough for one meal a day at the most. The average vegan soldier has to order food to the base every day, which is not possible with bases that are inaccessible,” This allowance meant that the onus of responsibility for meeting the soldier’s nutritional needs fell squarely on their own shoulders, which proved problematic when a service member was away for long stretches of time and unable to prepare food while they were stationed away. Kosher stipulations for the mess halls themselves also made it difficult to bring food from outside, often preventing the soldier from doing so at all.
Hey, Domino’s! We want a vegan pizza option here too!
Given the popularity of veganism in Israel, it stands to reason that policies would need to be made in order to accommodate the growing number of plant-based eaters in the army. Three percent of Israel’s total population are vegan. That number may not seem very high, but when compared to the U.S number of .5 percent it’s pretty impressive. The way of life has become so popular in the country that Domino’s Pizza launched it’s first ever vegan pizza offering there (with soy based cheese) and a vegan congress was held in the spring of 2014. It was also the site of the world’s largest vegan festival the same year, with more than 15,000 people in attendance! The country has completely banned cosmetics that were tested on animals and the use of animals in the classroom as well. The army heard the complaint and adjusted their practices accordingly, vowing to begin offering more satisfying options such as soy-based fare as well as lentil and corn cakes. They will still allow soldiers to bring food from home, but will ensure that it’s actually easy to do so by allotting specified space in mess hall refrigerators. There will also no longer be a need to have a lawyer present during a home visit when a soldier declares that they are vegan. A simple phone call in front of the unit commander will suffice going forward.
Hi, yeah, I don’t do the whole meat, eggs and dairy thing so Imma need to order up some lentil patties. K, thanks.
The change is being met with reserved optimism. While the solidiers applaud the IDF’s willingness to make accommodations, they are waiting to see how it plays out before declaring their formal protest a victory. Omer Yuval, a reservist who served in Operation Protective Edge and initiated the protest, said, “The decision is definitely encouraging, and we thank the IDF and appreciate the willingness to make such a significant logistical change.” He goes on to say, however, “There is room for optimism, but at this stage I prefer to exercise restraint and to wait for results in the field.” We applaud the IDF, the service members and the country of Israel for their continued movement toward plant-based eating a more sustainable world. They continue to serve as an example to the global community of how well we can thrive as individuals and as a nation when we move away from a wasteful, cruel and unhealthy dependence on animal products.
Image Credit: JPost