Swiss Army says 19-year-old is “unfit for (mandatory) service.”
Many countries hold mandatory military recruitment for their citizens over a certain age–usually the men. In some countries, refusal to serve can result in jail time, and others, like Switzerland, charge a military exemption tax of 3% of a person’s income until the age of 30.
Antoni Da Campo, a 19-year-old vegan, may be facing that fine after the Swiss army discharged him over his refusal to wear leather as part of the uniform. Gabriela Zimmer, deputy spokesperson of the logistics base of the Swiss army, stated the reason was that “the army sees the efficiency of large units, it cannot adapt to each individual. Special treatment cannot be given to every recruit for food and clothing.” Exceptions to accommodate food allergies as well as religious beliefs have been and continue to be made, but in this case, Da Campo was seen as unwilling to compromise.
Da Campo has been vegan for over a year now, and it was not his plant-based diet that affected his application. Rather, it was his refusal to wear any leather that lead to the rejection of his application, since it would be in both the belt and boots of the standard uniform. On his choice of becoming a vegan, Da Campo stated:
“The enslavement of beings endowed with mental life not only poses an ethical problem, but also environmental, social and health.”
Da Campo has filed an appeal against the military, and has taken his case to court. He stated:
“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.”
With the recent ruling made in Ontario, Da Campo’s objection to wearing leather would have been considered protected under the law as part of the newly defined term ‘creed’.