Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Struan Stevenson: Vegan-only hospital food would harm patients and farmers

Some Scottish GPs have called for meat to be banned from hospital menus (Photo: Kzenon/Shutterstock)
Some Scottish GPs have called for meat to be banned from hospital menus (Photo: Kzenon/Shutterstock)

Last week, some Scottish GPs sent an open letter to Caroline Lamb, chief executive of NHS Scotland, asking for meat to be banned from hospital menus in a bid to improve patient health.

The letter, signed by four doctors and an NHS consultant, claimed that serving red and processed meat to hospital patients was like “distributing cigarettes in the pulmonary-care unit”.

Hysterical assertions like this are becoming increasingly fashionable, as in-vogue veganism continues to grow. It is, nevertheless, astonishing that qualified medical practitioners can add their names to such an absurd petition.

The letter called on NHS Scotland to replace meat, eggs and dairy products in hospitals with “vibrant vegan foods”, to protect the health of Scottish people and the planet.

The claims in the letter are inaccurate and misleading on almost every level. Even vegan doctors must know that getting patients to eat at all is often a challenge. Confronting them with only vegan options would make matters worse. A balanced diet, which provides a patient with choice, must surely be best.

Plant-based alternatives to meat have become more common and more popular in recent years. Photo by Chie Inoue/Shutterstock

Arguing that plant-based food is healthier is disingenuous. For millennia, the natural human diet has always contained both animal and plant foods.

Meat and dairy products contain vitamin B12, an essential nutrient not naturally present in foods of plant origin. Red meat is also an excellent source of iron, zinc, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. So, eating a little meat or dairy along with your vegetables boosts the number of vitamins in a healthy meal.

Farmers are already struggling

The letter goes on to state that livestock farming is bad for the planet – a grossly inaccurate claim. Militant vegans hurl abuse at livestock farmers, claiming that agriculture is one of the main contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. They point the finger at ruminants as major producers of methane, a naturally occurring by-product of the digestive tract.

Banning meat from hospital menus would have a huge impact on farm incomes, already stretched to breaking point with the spiralling cost of living crisis

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. However, a team of scientists at Oxford University, conducting research in 2019 for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, categorically proved that methane from ruminants in the UK is not causing global warming. Indeed, they found that farm animals are providing a viable pathway to net-zero emissions from UK farming by 2030.

Scottish sheep and cattle are mainly reared on grass-based diets. Photo by John And Penny/Shutterstock

Aerobic soils are net sinks for methane and, so long as grass is actively growing, carbon is being removed from the atmosphere and sequestered into the ground. Scottish sheep and cattle are mainly reared on grass-based diets and are grazing fields that store a significant amount of carbon, benefitting the environment.

It is crudely unfair to attack our farmers in this way. Banning meat from hospital menus would have a huge impact on farm incomes, already stretched to breaking point with the spiralling cost of living crisis, rocketing fuel and fertiliser prices and rising inflation.

Scotland’s farmers are committed to providing food of superior quality, produced to the highest standards in Europe, requiring hours of backbreaking work, early mornings, late nights and extreme dedication. Their passion for the health, safety and welfare of their animals is unsurpassed.

Vegan doctors who do not understand this should keep their intemperate views to themselves.


Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament, representing Scotland between 1999 and 2014. He is a writer and international lecturer on the Middle East

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]