The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, and the U.S. military are not exactly known for getting along.
In fact, the animal rights organization has outright condemned its use of animals in training exercises, calling it a “War on Animals.”
But the U.S. Coast Guard, which is technically under the Department of Homeland Security instead of the Defense Department, has earned a place in PETA’s heart.
Its Yorktown Training Center embraced vegan food options in its dining, thereby winning it a prestigious “Proggy Award” — short for progress.
“From passionfruit panna cotta to Beyond Bolognese, students at U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Yorktown delight in high-quality dishes that are kind to animals, the Earth, and their arteries,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a release. “As demand for vegan fare skyrockets, PETA looks forward to seeing every military base progress to offering healthy, compassionate, and eco-friendly foods.”
Yorktown launched the program during COVID-19 when vegan trainees were unable leave the base to seek alternative food sources, with Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian Swoveland, a culinary specialist, serving as the brains and hands behind these dining options.
According to Newkirk, the menu is so popular that it attracts more diners than just the vegan students.
“Since Yorktown is one of the largest Coast Guard training centers in the country, the success of its vegan meal program is sure to have an impact on other locations,” the release noted.
But while the organization appreciates the efforts in Yorktown, it continues to condemn the lack of vegan options across U.S. military dining facilities and in rations.
“While there are accommodations for kosher, halal, and vegetarian diets, no meals ready to eat are totally vegan and only four options are vegetarian,” the release added.
PETA claims many service members would like to the see the vegetarian meals-ready-to-eat converted to vegan ones, with a link to a petition, which states, “Many times the military member is forced to bring their own food to the field to self support due to lack of options. These personnel are still charged for the MREs that are provided by regulation.”
The Defense Department pays a Basic Allowance for Subsistence to active duty service members, which may be deducted for those living full-time on installations or being fed in the field. The military does not, however, charge service members for MREs on deployment.
Currently, the military offers four vegetarian MRE options. In 2019, the Air Force began adding Beyond Meat burgers to its dining halls, and in that same year, Fort Sill’s Guns and Rockets Dining Facility became the first Army facility to offer soldiers plant-based dishes during each meal.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.