According to spokesman Eystein Kvarving “It’s a step to protect our climate. The idea is to serve food that’s respectful of the environment. It’s not about saving money. It’s about being more concerned for our climate, more ecologically friendly and also healthier.” A Norwegian environmental group that campaigns for meatless meals nationwide, The Future in Our Hands, welcomed the military’s announcement. “The defense ministry deserves a lot of praise because it’s taking climate and environmental issues seriously,” said the group’s director, Arild Hermstad.
Of course in instituting the new policy some preconceptions need to be overcome, since only about 1 to 2 percent of Norwegians self-identify as vegetarians. The Future in Our Hands group says that the average Norwegian currently eats more than 1,200 animals in his or her lifetime, including 1,147 chickens, 22 sheep, 6 cattle, and almost 3 deer.
“It seems that people don’t think it’s possible to be an iron man as a vegetarian. It seems like they don’t think a good soldier can be a vegetarian, but we have a lot of soldiers who are vegetarian, so I know it’s possible,” says Pal Stenberg, a nutritionist and navy commander who heads up the army’s catering division. “We have to use a lot of effort in communicating both the environmental benefits and the health benefits.”
We’re glad they recognize some of the health benefits. Actually, this should already be well-known to them. While their country was occupied during World War II, the supply of animal products was all but cut off from the general population. During that time disease rates fell significantly, giving something of a silver lining to all the hardship. Now that they recognize the environmental and health benefits of a vegetarian diet, we hope they will come to learn more about compassion towards animals and the global hunger benefits of a vegetarian diet as well.
To our knowledge, this is the first instance of an entire military going veg once a week. The significance of this can hardly be overstated. Hopefully this will set the ball rolling for other NATO members to follow suit. So far, the vegetarian fare is going over pretty well amongst the troops, especially the meat analogues. One soldier was convinced the mysterious soy product in his taco was actually ground beef because it was so real.
In the meantime, Santa please take note. We’re getting real close to the North Pole. So on your next trip down from the Pole, why not stop at Spisestedet, an all plant-based restaurant in Oslo, and treat yourself and the elves to dinner. They’re making a recipe and checking it twice. Their chimney is all clear for you and you’ll be giving yourself, the elves, the planet, and all who share it, the most precious gift of all: life itself.