The proud motto of northern Europeâ€™s crack rapid-reaction force is ad omnia paratus. Prepared for everything, everywhere. But the heraldic lion above the Latin tag now sends a less plucky message â€“ he has just been digitally emasculated and, though technically still a lion rampant, he does not seem to be ready for anything, anywhere.
The change was implemented after a group of women Swedish soldiers protested that they could not identify with such an ostentatiously male lion on their army crest. A complaint of sex discrimination was then lodged with the European Court of Justice.
â€œWe were forced to cut the lionâ€™s willy off with the aid of a computer,â€ Christian Braunstein, from the Tradition Commission of the Swedish Army, said.
Now the Nordic Battlegroup, a force of 2,400 soldiers, is looking deeply embarrassed. For sceptics who already consider the Nordic Battlegroup to be something of an oxymoron â€“ it is led by the Swedes, who were last in battle in 1809 â€“ the operation on the lion is not an auspicious omen.
â€œA castrated lion â€“ the perfect symbol for European defence policy,â€ an American military blogger sneered.
There are 18 battle groups in the European Union and the Nordic one, comprising Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia and Ireland, goes on standby on January 1, 2008.
Most upset, though, was Vladimir Sagerlund, the designer of the crest from the National Archives. â€œA heraldic lion is a powerful and stately figure with its genitalia intact and I cannot approve an edited image,â€ he told Ã¶teborgs-Posten, a Swedish daily.
â€œThe Army lacks knowledge about heraldry. Coats of arms containing lions without genitalia were given to those who betrayed the Crown.â€
This kind of thing comes up all the time in relation to the arms of particular Swiss cantons featuring bears whose equipment is not only intact, but even more flamboyantly erect and displayed gules, (i.e. red). Attempts to censor the overly-explicit Swiss charges always result in absolute uproar with lots of coarse Swiss comments about refusing to be represented by female bears.