The British National Health Service (NHS) has been criticized for its decision to serve “venison” from deer “culled” by Forestry England.
The meat, which has already been served by East Lancashire Hospital Trust, is made from animals killed in the nearby Forest of Bowland and Grizedale. Around 20 other hospitals are set to follow suit, with plans to offer the dish to their patients before the end of the year.
Consumption of wild deer is often justified on the ground that they are “culled” to keep their populations down and protect farmland and vegetation. This is because the UK no longer has wolves to hunt them. But animal rights groups have blasted the notion of the meat being in any way “ethical.”
“The concept of ‘culling’ an animal is absurd: animals have just as much right as we do to roam the land,” Rory Cockshaw, campaigner at Viva!, told Plant Based News (PBN). “Deer are intelligent animals that learn how to adapt to survive in their natural environment – unless their lives are cruelly cut short by humans.”
PETA’s Director of Vegan Corporate Projects, Dawn Carr, added: “No animal – whether a gentle deer killed under the guise of a ‘cull’ or a pig or cow hung up and shot with a bolt gun – wants to die to be served up in a stew or as a sandwich filler.”
Campaigns to phase out meat in hospitals
As well as blasting the ethics of the dish, the organizations have questioned the NHS’ decision to serve any meat at all. This, they say, is because animal product consumption has been linked to increased risk of illnesses, like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
“Serving [meat] in hospitals must be phased out immediately,” said Carr. “It’s like giving out cigarettes at a lung cancer benefit.”
“It is shocking that the NHS is still serving meat to patients who are in hospital with the sole purpose of getting better,” added Cockshaw.
He also pointed out that public hospitals in New York recently adopted a plant-based menu to “promote healthy eating habits and encourage recovery.”
Earlier this month, it was announced that all 11 public hospitals in NYC would serve plant-based food “by default.” The initiative got off to a successful start, with 60 percent of patients choosing the dishes, and 95 percent saying they were happy with their choice.
Cockshaw is calling on the UK to follow suit. “I would like to see the NHS backtrack on this decision and make a move towards serving patients vegan food,” he told PBN. “Foods such as tofu, pulses, beans, nuts, and vegetables are all high in protein and packed full of vitamins to help patients recover from illness.”
This isn’t the first time the NHS has been urged to stop serving meat. In May of this year, a coalition of doctors in Scotland wrote an open letter stating that plant-based meals would “help NHS Scotland improve patient recovery, reduce costs, prevent animal suffering, and meet its commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions.”