SU-30SM, SU-35S, and SU-34 flying in formation - Sputnik International, 1920
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Finnish Military's Ban on Vegetarians in Elite Units Sparks Equality Concerns

© Photo : PixabayVegetables
Vegetables - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.03.2023
The formal explanation for the dietary restrictions imposed by the Finnish Defense Forces are the demanding conditions that troops may find themselves in. However, non-discrimination officials have argued that people are put in a disadvantageous situation based on their beliefs or physical health.
Finns with special dietary needs, a broad category that includes everyone from those with severe lactose intolerance to vegetarians and vegans, are not eligible for training in the specialized border jaeger corps, the country's media have found.
Border jaegers are an elite unit of the Finnish Border Guard trained in eastern Finland and Lapland. The formal explanation for the dietary restrictions introduced by the Finnish Defense Forces are the demanding conditions that troops may find themselves in.
"Wartime duties are very demanding and it's very difficult to distribute meals. With this decision, we want to make sure that everyone gets adequate amounts of nutritious food even in exceptional circumstances. If diets need to be restricted, it gets more complicated," head of the jaeger border training department in North Karelia Ville Juvonen told Finnish media.
Juvonen argued that meeting a high energy demand of up to 6,000 calories may prove a hard task under exceptional circumstances and while there are edible plants in Finnish forests, they are not available in adequate amounts. Instead, high-quality nutrition is necessary, he argued.
Juvonen argued that there is no need for a change in the rules, citing the difference between "what's possible" and "what's reasonable" in the military business.
However, the restrictions have sparked equality concerns. For instance, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman’s Office argued that there may be a case for reviewing the current dietary guidelines.
"It seems that people are put in a disadvantageous situation based on their health situation and possibly, beliefs," its senior advisor Robin Harms said. "You have to have very strong reasons, which must be acceptable in terms of fundamental and human rights."
The Finnish Border Guard consists of 3,800 active duty personnel. Upon mobilization, it would be wholly or partly incorporated into the Finnish Defense Forces and its strength bolstered further with reservists who have served their conscription in the branch. The fully mobilized strength of the Finnish Border Guard is 12,600 servicemen.
In this picture taken January 20, 2016, border zone signs are seen at the Finnish-Russian border in Salla, northern Finland - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.03.2023
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Finland's draft-based armed forces have an active personnel of 24,000 and a reserve personnel of 900,000 in a country of 5.5 million.
According to a 2021 estimate, vegetarians and vegans constitute 12 and 2 percent of the Finnish population respectively.
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