A vegan has been turned down from the Defence Force over his "plant-based diet".
Jack Burns applied this month to join the Navy in the hope of helping people as a medic. Now, he's speaking out after his application was denied due to his veganism.
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"I thought it was quite strange that they didn't look at my personality or my skills. They just looked at what I ate," he told Newshub.
Burns says his plant-based diet has left him in excellent physical shape. Before applying, he volunteered as a surf lifeguard and trained as a volunteer firefighter.
"I have heaps more energy, I'm fit and strong," he says. "I am fit and healthy and it is proven through academic literature and through vegan athletes that someone can not only be healthy on a vegan diet but can thrive."
A spokesperson for the Defence Force told Newshub strict vegans can't be accepted, as the NZDF can't guarantee adequate food in training and on deployments.
"Members of the NZDF are required to be capable of deploying into austere environments without easy access to catering for specific dietary requirements," they told Newshub.
"Those who have specific dietary choices must be willing to eat alternative options (i.e. animal products) if their diet can't be catered for.
"We do however provide as many options as possible for vegetarians on bases and camps, and in some field ration packs."
Burns says he's "very disappointed" they can't cater for vegans.
"The Defence Force is at the forefront of leadership and innovation, and they need to catch up big time and educate themselves about the stereotypes about plant-based eating," he told Newshub.
"When I think about how much money the Defence Force has, it's not a lot to ask. It's not more expensive to whip up a plant-based meal.
"Don't you think in 2019 that the NZ Defence Force should be way more forward-thinking and innovative?"
Burns still feels the need to help the community in some way. He says he's now looking at a career as a firefighter or police officer.