Woman wearing a blue dress, eating on the bed in the hospital Medical professionals warn of the dangers of serving animal products at hospitals. Image Credit: Adobe Stock - Media Credit:

Doctors Compare Meat To Cigarettes, Urge NHS To Serve Vegan Hospital Food

An open letter compared serving red and processed meat to “distributing cigarettes”

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2 Minutes Read

In a new open letter to the NHS, a coalition of doctors in Scotland urge for a ban on meat in hospital meals.

The letter – which was sent to the chief executive of NHS Scotland, Caroline Lamb – states that serving plant-based meals would be better for the environment, improve the health of patients, and potentially save the health service millions of pounds. 

As reported by The Times, the letter reads: “At this time of health and climate crises, we, the undersigned, urge NHS Scotland to switch to vegan menus for patients in hospitals.

“Replacing meat, eggs, and dairy with vibrant vegan foods is vital if we are to protect the health of Scottish people and the planet.

“It is a dereliction of duty that meals offered in hospitals are often far from healthy and can even include red and processed meats, which are known to be carcinogenic.”

Benefits of meat-free food

The letter compares serving meat to “distributing cigarettes in the pulmonary-care unit.”

It adds: “Switching to 100 percent vegan menus … would help NHS Scotland improve patient recovery, reduce costs, prevent animal suffering, and meet its commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions.”

The signatories go on to state that the NHS could save £30 billion a year if all meals served in the UK were vegan.  

A number of doctors signed the letter, including NHS consultant gastroenterologist Alan Desmond, and GPs Nick Browne, Miriam Maisel, Olga Morton, and Fiona Bullions.

Animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of the climate crisis, while meat consumption has been linked to a number of cancers and other diseases. 

Despite this, the letter has been criticized by some. Rachael Hamilton, the Scottish Conservative’s rural affairs spokesperson, labeled the demand “deeply irresponsible.”

Currently, Scottish government hospital guidelines state that provisions must be made for patients following vegan and vegetarian diets, and that there must be a meat-free option for every meal.

According to The Times, a spokesperson for the Scottish government said: “We expect all patients to be offered good, nutritious food in accordance with their ethical or religious requirements.

“The importance of balanced nutrition is well accepted and emphasized in our guidance on hospital food to ensure all patients get the best possible nourishment.”

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The Author

Polly Foreman

Polly is the Deputy Editor of Plant Based News. She has been vegan since 2014, and has written extensively on veganism, animal rights, and the environment.

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Carrie Fox
Carrie Fox
4 months ago

This seems draconian and takes away patients’ choices at a time when they are ill and need a wide range of bioavailable nutrients. Sick elderly people and children would probably prefer familiar meat-based meals to unfamiliar vegan options.

Frank Lane
4 months ago
Reply to  Carrie Fox

Today, the Plantbased industry has made veg-meat look, taste and chew like animal meat. So, the experience is not unfamiliar. Most importantly, the food is more healthy especially in recovery from sickness situations. Hospitals and surgeries are unfamiliar to most because they didn’t know the benefits of vegetables, fruits, seeds. nuts, legumes. Plantbased is a solution to the health care and environmental crisis. http://Www.UnitedVegan.com

Ray
Ray
4 months ago
Reply to  Carrie Fox

Whats draconian is feeding them the very “food” that got them there in the first place!

Cathy Jupp
Cathy Jupp
3 months ago
Reply to  Carrie Fox

And smokers would prefer to continue smoking whilst in hospital, but nobody in their right minds would advocate that!
Feeding hospital patiends meat and dairy is continuing the practice that put half of them there in the first place and is complete madness.

Harley
Harley
3 months ago
Reply to  Carrie Fox

I don’t think the hospital would be providing anything less nutritious that what is currently being provided. If anything, the range of nutrients would be increased. Additionally, it’s not as though there will be one plant-based option, there would be many. No one is morally or religiously required to consume animal products (at least no religions or morals that I have come across anyway), so there is no logical reason why a plant-based menu is bad, other than the “arguement” of “but I like it”, which in my opinion, is less important than having cost-effective, environmentally-friendly, and balanced meals.

Also, I do find the argument that choice is being taken away interesting, if you consider the entire animal farming industry thrives on the basis that countless sentient beings needlessly have their choice and right to live away from them.

Gigi
Gigi
4 months ago

What’s NHS?

A l
A l
4 months ago
Reply to  Gigi

National Health Service of the UK.

Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood
4 months ago
Reply to  Gigi
Jodie
Jodie
4 months ago

I’m vegan and stayed in the Royal Sussex County Hospital. I was served extremely delicious vegan options, the only problem being that they were extremely low in calories. I think people often forget that plant based food, despite being much higher in nutrients, is often much lower in calories and the portion size needs to be adjusted to reflect this. Otherwise, it has been shown that better nutrition can reduce the length of a patient’s time in hospital, so this is definitely something the NHS should consider.

Holger Lundstrom
Holger Lundstrom
4 months ago
Reply to  Jodie

That’s exactly the problem, along with protein content and digestibility, which is critical when recovering from an operation or accident.

Plant Based News Admin
Editor
Plant Based News Admin
3 months ago

Hi Holger, thank you for your comment. The concept of ‘protein digestibility’ in the context you’re suggesting is flawed, and there isn’t a ton of evidence to support it. They’re usually based on PDCAAS (1. We’re not rodents. 2. Lower scores for foods with low amounts of any *individual* amino acid content. This is a problem because some plant based foods might be lower in individual AA, but with a varied diet it doesn’t matter (nobody is eating only corn or peas)). or DIAAS (1. We’re not pigs 2. Again, ower scores for foods with low amounts of any *individual* amino acid content. This is a problem because some plant based foods might be lower in individual AA, but with a varied diet it doesn’t matter because they compliment each other. 3. They also usually use raw foods, and cooking grains and pulses increases digestibility, which is how they’re usually consumed.). The limited data we have on protein digestibility suggests differences of “a few percent” between some animal and plant sources. Not enough to justify the negative health outcomes. This explains it well: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33409931/
And again, you can get more than enough protein on a plant-based diet to aid recovery.

Jhon
Jhon
4 months ago

Where’s the original letter? There’s no reference to it. I was curious, so look for Dr. Desmond (not a nutricionist) investigation, no scientific formal tests.

Plant Based News Admin
Editor
Plant Based News Admin
3 months ago
Reply to  Jhon

The letter, as published in The Times, is linked in the article. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/doctors-call-on-nhs-to-ban-meat-from-hospitals-lhsdpvfwq

James McNeill
James McNeill
4 months ago

Making vegan food the default option in hospital settings is common sense. It would save many lives, reduce health care and environmental costs significantly.

Holger Lundstrom
Holger Lundstrom
4 months ago

Wow, what an amateurish thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, hospital food should be healthier. But animal proteins contain an excellent balance of amino acids, and minerals like zinc, that people will need to recover from operations. You really think the NHS will manage to serve wholesome vegan foods that optimally support the patient? Sorry, no. High-protein plant foods are usually hard to digest due to large amounts of fiber, which is not great for people who are already weakened.

Plant Based News Admin
Editor
Plant Based News Admin
3 months ago

Hi Holger, thank you for your comment. Zinc is found abundantly in plant based foods, as is protein.
Wholesome plant based foods that are significantly less expensive and healthier than their animal based counterparts? Yes.
There are low fiber high protein options like tofu and seitan.

Hesham Hendam
Hesham Hendam
4 months ago

Humanity very soon will have no option zero
but to go on 100% vegan diet or face complete and total extinction
animal agriculture is 51% of green house emissions
the fires are growing bigger and bigger every year also the hurricanes the flood and drought all this will increase an increase an increase till humanity realize to go vegan is as simple as that or life as we know it today is over
i just don’t really understand why people can’t simply choose love vegan is pure love it’s easy all we need is love .
No worries humanity will Learn the hard way
———————-
I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man 
Mahatma Ghandi 

Eric Jumbley
Eric Jumbley
3 months ago
Reply to  Hesham Hendam

You have been indoctrinated to believe this rubbish. I feel sorry for you.

Ryckie Wade
Ryckie Wade
4 months ago

I pointed out to my hospital board the hypocrisy of serving atherogenic, carcinogenic and pro-inflammatory food (meat, dairy, eggs) to already unwell patients. The cognitive dissonance was astounding. They said patient choice was more important. I pointed out that we don’t give cigarettes or alcohol to patients and neither should we be complicit in harming health by proving animals products when healthier, greener and crueltyhfree options are abundant. I am ashamed that people in power have so little courage. Do the right thing

JAMES LERCHE
JAMES LERCHE
4 months ago

i think that sounds a great idea. One doesn’t require meat while in a hospital bed and like the article states there are several real benefits which make perfect sense. However I would draw the line at totally vegan as eggs and milk for example are so versatile (comfort food) being consumed on their own and in cooked items. With the money saved from not purchasing meat the quality of all produce should be vastly increased including high welfare eggs/dairy and organic vegetable. To go totally vegan would in my opinion work against itself. In essence I would support this idea. Meat of any type could be omitted with no detrimental effects and anyway, in hospitals it’s probably not the best quality, not particularly ethically produced and I imagine not well cooked and presented.

Plant Based News Admin
Editor
Plant Based News Admin
3 months ago
Reply to  JAMES LERCHE

Thanks for your comment. Could you elaborate on why eggs and cow’s milk would be necessary? In cooked items they are easily replaced, and there are even plant-based scrambled eggs and of course various plant milks- and how can eggs and dairy ever be ‘high-welfare’? Welfare claims often mean next to nothing, as has been proven time and time again with investigations. https://plantbasednews.org/opinion/can-we-trust-high-welfare-labels-red-tractor/ https://plantbasednews.org/culture/investigation-starving-pigs-high-welfare-farm/ https://plantbasednews.org/culture/ethics/vegan-charity-exposes-unacceptable-conditions-on-trout-farms/ https://plantbasednews.org/news/undercover-video-horrific-abuse-calves-dairy-farm-coca-cola/ https://plantbasednews.org/culture/calves-brutalized-starved-to-death/ How would going completely plant-based ‘work against itself’?

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