The SAS Goes Vegan: Plant-Based Eating Rises in the Armed Forces

By Tyler, Global Vegans

By Tyler, Global Vegans

It was recently reported that 30% of new SAS recruits follow a vegan or vegetarian diet - news that will surely please the UK’s plant-based community!

These figures show a marked shift in attitudes towards veganism in the military and reflect the growing population of people following a plant-based diet in the UK. The latest research in Britain shows that 600,000 people were following a vegan diet in 2018, a figure which we can expect to be much higher in 2021.

The growing number of plant-based SAS soldiers has shown that even the most long-standing institutions must soon open their eyes to veganism and its many benefits. We hope this could be the beginning of truly progressive change in the forces!

This news is especially poignant considering the Ministry of Defence’s long and shocking history of animal abuse. Every year, thousands of rodents, pigs and primates are exploited and killed in barbaric military experiments that use explosives, biological pathogens and nerve gas.

It has not been revealed why a third of new SAS recruits have turned to plant-based eating, but we can assume that animal welfare and environmental concerns were driving forces for many. However, it is likely that a large proportion of recruits have ditched animal products in favour of plant-based snacks and meals to take advantage of the many health benefits of a vegan diet.

Staying in peak physical condition is vital for SAS soldiers, so it’s clear to see why the health advantages of eating whole foods and plant sources might motivate them to go vegan or vegetarian. Plant-based diets have been shown to strengthen immune systems, protect against heart diseases, promote better gut health and prevent chronic diseases.

For soldiers who rely on sustained energy levels and speedy muscle recovery, following a vegan diet seems like an obvious choice. Yet, embracing the health and wellbeing benefits of plant-based eating isn’t the only reason why many in the Armed Forces now choose to avoid meat.

To protect against food poisoning, it is now standard practice to go without meat on overseas operations. This is because the risk of food poisoning is much higher when storing and cooking meat and animal products than when preparing plant foods, especially in hot climates.

According to the Mirror, enjoying a plant-based diet on overseas missions is what motivates many soldiers to give up meat long-term. A source said: “guys started coming back from a six-month tour of duty where they haven’t eaten meat and have decided to stick with a veggie diet.”

When it comes to dietary changes, the SAS aren’t the only military unit to dip their toes into vegetarianism and veganism. In May 2019, the Royal Navy trialled a six-week vegan menu across its fleet and now offers vegan meals on request at all land bases, ports and training centres.

In a 2018 article, Can You Be Vegan In The Military?, the military broadcasting website Forces spoke to Chief Petty Officer Chris Oliver, who had been following a vegan diet for five years at the time of publication. He claimed that most chefs were happy to accommodate his food choices given notice, although he noted that some aspects of military life don’t lend themselves well to a vegan lifestyle. This includes wearing the Royal Navy uniform, which requires soldiers to wear leather boots.

The Ministry of Defence has also confirmed that it caters to all dietary requirements, however veganism is not mentioned specifically on the MOD website. As more people grow aware of the physical and psychological benefits of eating completely plant-based, we hope the MOD will commit to offering vegan meal options as standard.

Perhaps they could follow the lead of the Finnish Armed Forces, which have been championing plant-based meals for the last couple of years. For the health of its soldiers and the planet, 2018 saw the Finnish Army introduce two vegetarian meals to its weekly menu. The meals combine meat alternatives with slow-release carbohydrates and vegetables in place of meat and fish-heavy dishes.

Making vegetarian and vegan meals a permanent part of camp menus would be a fantastic move for the British Armed Forces, with the growing number of plant-based SAS soldiers proving there is demand for more progressive catering. Following this, the military should look to produce uniforms that are free from animal-derived materials, such as leather and wool.

Change within the military is inevitable - and we’re excited to see what comes next!

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