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”


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 a writer and journalist based in London. 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
21 days 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.

21 days ago

What’s NHS?

16 days 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.