Antoni Da Campo, a strict vegan and member of Swiss animal rights organization PEA, was keen to undertake his obligatory military service and last December passed all the medical and physical tests required by the army.
But he was declared “unfit” for service because the army felt it could not accommodate his vegan diet or his refusal to wear leather boots – despite the fact he had offered to pay for synthetic boots.
Speaking to The Local earlier this year, Da Campo said: “They declared me doubly unacceptable, meaning that I can't do civil service either. It's for that reason that I find their decision discriminatory and arbitrary”.
As a result, he would have to pay a tax on his income until the age of 30 instead of serving.
Unwilling to accept the army’s stance, Da Campo took his case to a Lausanne appeal court in March – and lost.
He then appealed a second time to the Federal Administrative Court, arguing that the army’s decision went against his human right to maintain his personal convictions.
In a statement sent to The Local on Wednesday, Da Campo said he argued there was no legal basis for declaring a person unfit for military service simply because of his veganism.
Demanding he pay a tax because of his philosophical beliefs constituted a discrimination and violated the principle of proportionality, he said.
The court ordered the two parties to discuss the matter further between themselves, and as a result, the army decided to change its mind and has now declared Da Campo “fit” for service, he said.
“There are more and more vegans in our society and I am happy to see that the army, like all public institutions, chooses to adapt itself to this reality” said Da Campo.
“Vegans should enjoy the same rights and duties as other citizens and not be forced to pay a tax just because they refuse to put [on] boots that involved the killing of animals.”
Though the exact logistics are yet to be settled, Da Campo told 24 Heures he would buy his own, vegan, boots. “As for food, maybe it will be possible to get a small sum to make my own purchases,” he said.
In March Da Campo told The Local he was “very motivated” to do military service and that it was not incompatible with his views on animal rights.
“I consider it unfair to kill animals for unnecessary practices for humans,” he added on Wednesday.
“However, defending democracy and my fellow citizens in case of an aggression by another country seems perfectly legitimate.”