The Estonian Defense Forces grant people access to all military units regardless of individual dietary preferences - unlike the Finnish Army.
"The Defense Forces does not make exceptions based on dietary preferences when assigning military units. In the canteen, soldiers have the option of vegetarian food. The Defense Forces also have vegetarian dry food packages," said Taavi Karotamm, head of the press department of the Defense Forces General Staff, to ERR on Monday.
Finnish national broadcaster Yle wrote on March 29 that the Finnish Defense Forces will no longer accept vegans in certain elite units, soldiers with special dietary needs - like vegetarians, vegans, persons with celiac disease and severe lactose intolerance. The decision was justified through "demanding duties during wartime" and the difficulty to distribute meals. The fighters of the Jaeger units usually operating along the Finnish border are trained and supposed to survive even when their food supply may be cut off - including the ability to prepare food from caught fish or killed reindeer, Yle said.
"If there are restrictions on food from a medical perspective, it is possible to make a special agreement on catering," said Maj. Karotamm regarding the Estonian Defense Forces. But according to Eha Nurk, expert in the field of nutrition and research secretary at the Health Development Institute, this should be a minor problem in everyday life. Based on the 2020 results of the Estonian adult population health behavior survey, about 4 percent of the population needs to follow a special diet due to allergies, and in addition, there were another 3 percent who were vegans and vegetarians in the same year.
"The distribution of vegans and vegetarians therein is unknown, but it is expected that there are still more vegetarians, and vegans could count for around 1 percent of the population," Nurk noted. "Veganism is definitely more popular among young people and also among women," she added.
Editor: Marcus Turovski