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Vegetarian and vegan menus for the military: can they be introduced in Ukraine?

Service members can have different food needs depending on their ethical and religious beliefs or habits acquired before enlisting in the army.

The need for a special menu can also be dictated by health conditions, since abrupt changes in the diet can cause digestive disorders and even psychological problems.

Can vegetarian and vegan menus be created for the Ukrainian military at the national level like it was done in Israel, the U.S., and the U.K.?


According to the survey held by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in October 2020, 4,5 million Ukrainians were vegetarians, while about 800,000 were vegans.

Many of them enlisted in the army after the war started in 2014, especially after the full-scale invasion. However, it’s been impossible for them to maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet since all dry rations officially supplied to the army contain meat or animal products.

In Ukraine, vegan rations for the military are provided by volunteers only. Photo: facebook.com/vegansuanews

In Ukraine, vegan rations for the military are provided by volunteers only. Photo: facebook.com/vegansuanews

A petition filed on June 27, 2022, by a Ukrainian serviceman, Petro Pavlov shows that the problem isn’t speculative. Pavlov asked to create a separate menu for vegetarians and vegans, including for situations where no kitchen is available — that is in combat operation zones.

The author of the petition stressed that vegan dry rations are needed not only by people who are vegetarians or vegans due to their ethical beliefs but also for:

  • theists (religious people who often refrain from animal products due to observing fasts);
  • people with lactose intolerance or a limited ability to digest lactose;
  • people with recurrent digestive disorders (vegetarian food is used as a diet to restore stable functioning of the gastrointestinal tract).

The petition was signed by more than 25,500 Ukrainians, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded to it by saying that current regulations don’t provide for catering for vegetarian service members. Still, he tasked Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal with addressing this issue.

Vegans in the Ukrainian army have to either change their diet or ask volunteers for help. Photo: facebook.com/vegansuanews

Vegans in the Ukrainian army have to either change their diet or ask volunteers for help. Photo: facebook.com/vegansuanews

Experience from other countries: what do vegans eat in the armies of Israel, the U.K., and the U.S.?

While our service members struggle to meet their food needs, other countries already have vegetarian and even vegan menus for their military.

Israel: how were dry rations introduced in the IDF?

Vegans in the Israeli army obtained a special menu in 2017. Photo: jpost.com

Vegans in the Israeli army obtained a special menu in 2017. Photo: jpost.com

The Israeli army is the world’s first concerning the percentage of vegetarians: over 10,000 IDF service members are vegan, which accounts for one in 18. In 2017, the IDF updated its menus to introduce vegan rations for combat soldiers, Livekindly reported.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israeli soldiers who don’t eat animal products have a wide choice of vegetarian foods, such as:

  • soy-based drinks and desserts;
  • cheese and egg substitutes;
  • soy flakes and soybeans;
  • tofu;
  • vegan schnitzels.

A former Israel Defense Force officer and military analyst, Yigal Levin, told The Page that for quite a long time, there were only two types of rations in his country’s army: ordinary and vegetarian.

To choose a menu, a soldier had to notify the commander in advance as there was a limited supply of vegetarian rations.

Quote"For example, instead of a meat steak, you could have a soy or corn one. I served five years, from 2005 to 2010, and when I retired, there were no vegan rations. So they’ve been introduced relatively recently, including individual rations," Levin recalls.

The former serviceman explains that the assortment of foods in the IDF was expanded due to pressure from below:

Quote"In Israel, the issue of vegetarian and vegan food is very urgent because everyone serves. That’s why it couldn’t be ignored."

The U.S. army: menus for vegetarians and Judaists

According to the February 2022 survey by Mercy for Animals, about 11% of U.S. service members are vegan or vegetarian. When asked if more plant-based food must be available in the American army, nearly 81% of the respondents said yes.

Moreover, 63% of the service members who took part in the survey said that, given the option, they would prefer plant-based MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat).

In the U.S., there are four types of vegetarian menus available to the military

In the U.S., there are four types of vegetarian menus available to the military

It should be taken into account that the American military enjoys a wider choice than their Ukrainian colleagues. In the Ukrainian petition on introducing vegetarian and vegan rations for the Ukrainian military, vegetarian options of the U.S. dry rations or MREs were mentioned: Menus 11, 12, 13, and 14 (Vegetarian).

In fact, although there are vegetarian options available to U.S. service members, no fully plant-based MREs exist, so vegans are much less comfortable.

There are several vegetarian menus in the U.S. army, but no vegan MREs

There are several vegetarian menus in the U.S. army, but no vegan MREs

Menu 11 includes:

  • Cheese pizza slice;
  • Applesauce, carb-enhanced;
  • First Strike Bar, chocolate;
  • Chunky peanut butter;
  • Crackers;
  • Jalapeno cashews;
  • Sugar-free beverage base;
  • Crushed red pepper.

The U.S. army’s vegetarian menu [video]

Menu 12 includes:

  • Elbow macaroni in tomato sauce;
  • Barbecue protein puffs;
  • Applesauce with mango and peach puree;
  • Peanut butter;
  • Strawberry preserves;
  • Whole wheat bread, mini-loaf;
  • Chocolate protein drink powder;
  • Crushed red pepper.

Menu 13 includes:

  • Cheese tortellini in tomato sauce;
  • Dry roasted peanuts;
  • Chocolate peanut spread;
  • Crackers;
  • Recovery Trail Mix;
  • Lemon lime beverage powder, carb-electrolyte;
  • Crushed red pepper.

Menu 14 includes:

  • Mexican rice and bean bowl;
  • First strike bar, cran-raspberry;
  • Peanut butter;
  • Crackers;
  • Pretzels nuggets, honey mustard, and onion;
  • Chocolate protein drink powder;
  • Powdered hot sauce.

Besides vegetarian meals, current U.S. army rations offer Kosher and Halal foods.

A kosher menu can include:

  • Tuscany beef with cannellini beans;
  • Hickory smoked beef in brown rice with lentils & vegetables;
  • Jalapeno curry beef with potatoes;
  • Chicken & rice;
  • Spicy southwest chicken in rice with vegetables;
  • Pasta Marinara;
  • Chicken noodle;
  • Spicy vegetarian chili;
  • Chicken royale with brown rice;
  • Classic chicken curry with basmati rice, lentils & vegetables;
  • New Orleans gumbo with chicken;
  • Smoked beef paprikash noodles & vegetables.

A halal menu for the U.S. military can include:

  • Lamb & vegetable barley stew;
  • Vegetable & lamb Jalfrezi (a meal with a thick spicy sauce);
  • Beef roast & vegetables;
  • Beef stew;
  • Lamb & lentil stew;
  • Lentils Dal Marsala;
  • SAAG chole with lamb;
  • Chicken & vegetables;
  • Chicken pesto;
  • Chicken stew;
  • Penne pasta;
  • Ratatouille.

The U.K. army: vegetarian menus and boots for vegans

British 24-Hour Ration Packs provide 4,000 calories and include:

  • Seven standard meat menus;
  • Six religious menus (three Halal meat menus and three Sikh Hindu vegetarian menus);
  • Three special vegetarian menus suitable for Kosher diets;
  • Four lightweight dehydrated ration menus;
  • Special cold or hot climate menus.

In cold climate menus, an instant rolled oats mix is added, and in hot climates, the rolled oats mix is replaced with an additional fruit drink mix.

Standard U.K. army meat rations that were donated to the Ukrainian army contained the following:

  • Canned potato, meat, and vegetable stew or canned sausages;
  • Canned Corned Beef hash or canned meat;
  • Muesli;
  • Chocolate;
  • Fruit Flapjack;
  • Fruity flavor drink powder;
  • Nuts assortment;
  • Coffee.

What the British dry ratio donated to the Ukrainian army contains [video]

The first vegetarian menu includes, instead of meat-based meals:

  • Meat-free sausage & beans;
  • Tikka Masala vegetable Indian soup;
  • Treacle pudding.
Vegetarian service members in the British army have a choice of three menus

Vegetarian service members in the British army have a choice of three menus

The second vegetarian menu has meat-based foods replaced with:

  • Non-meat mini burgers & beans;
  • Pasta with mushrooms & sweet corn;
  • Chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce.
Vegetarian menus have been developed for the British army

Vegetarian menus have been developed for the British army

The third vegetarian menu includes, apart from snacks and drinks:

  • Potatoes & beans;
  • Spicy vegetable Rigatoni pasta;
  • Rice pudding.

Vegetarian menu in the U.K. army [video]

So, vegetarians in the army have options for receiving acceptable meals.

However, vegan soldiers complained in spring 2021 that they had had to eat food containing dairy as cutting out all animal products from their rations was ‘too hard’, PBN wrote.

Besides complaints about meals, vegan soldiers in the British army in 2021 were compelled to buy their own vegan leather shoes after refusing to wear commission cowhide shoes.

The Ministry of Defense promised to explore the issue of inclusive clothing. Furthermore, in 2020, the British aircraft carriers Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales launched a plant-based menu for sailors in the Navy.

Volunteer organizations are also engaged in promoting vegan rights in the U.K. army. Thus, The MOD Vegan & Vegetarian Network was created to advocate both food principles and the introduction of vegan boots for the military.

Ukraine: vegans and vegetarians in the army rely on volunteers

Volunteers try to help vegan Ukrainian soldiers maintain their diets. Photo: lviv_vegan_kitchen/Instagram

Volunteers try to help vegan Ukrainian soldiers maintain their diets. Photo: lviv_vegan_kitchen/Instagram

Introducing new dry rations for the Ukrainian army is a complex and long-lasting process, so those service members who normally wouldn’t eat animal products are compelled to compromise with their principles or diets as the available dry rations are the only option.

Here, concerned organizations step in to help the military maintain their eating habits.

One of these organizations, the NGO Every Animal, launched its Vegan Kitchen Ukraine project after February 24. Volunteers in several Ukrainian cities cook plant-based hot dinners for those who need them.

Since the full-scale invasion, the organization has served more than 31,000 vegan dinners. The project also provides members of the Armed Forces, including Territorial Defense, with plant-based meals.

Tamara Human, an animal rights activist, vegan, and founder of the Every Animal vegan organization, told The Page that her project sends several parcels of vegan meals daily to Ukrainian service members who don’t eat animal products.

Since September 25, the Every Animal project has sent more than 75 parcels to vegan Ukrainian soldiers. Photo: facebook.com/kozhnatvaryna

Since September 25, the Every Animal project has sent more than 75 parcels to vegan Ukrainian soldiers. Photo: facebook.com/kozhnatvaryna

Quote"In total, we’ve sent more than 600 such boxes. We pack protein products that are high-calorie, nourishing, healthy, and sweet — these are stews, vegan sausages and pates, peanut butter, dry fruit, nuts, protein bars, instant soups, etc. Almost all the products are Ukrainian-made."

Another organization dealing with food needs in a time of war is the NGO Lviv Vegan Kitchen.

It was founded by two sisters, Marta Ostrovska and Oksana Khomiak. The girls created a volunteer cafe in Lviv that provides free vegan meals for displaced people, while local vegans and travelers can order food and support the kitchen financially.

Besides feeding people in Lviv, the Lviv Vegan Kitchen sends boxes with vegan foods to the frontline. They buy tofu, instant soups, plant-based milk, vegan sausages, seitan, and vegan cookies for Ukrainian soldiers.

It certainly doesn’t represent a universal solution, but volunteers do their best to meet the needs of vegetarian and vegan Ukrainian service members.

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