Animal Aid


Posted 3 March 2004

A new UK-wide survey of hospital food has revealed a dramatic difference in provision for non-meat-eating patients across the country. Nearly two-thirds of vegetarians expressed satisfaction with their food. Others were offered corned beef, meat balls and fish dishes as 'vegetarian'.

Many vegan* patients, in particular, faced a traumatic daily fight for food. Two-thirds of vegans described provision as 'awful'. Vegans who had just given birth found it difficult to obtain the food they needed to recover fully and breast feed. A vegan patient's request for a veggie curry was refused on the grounds that it was 'for ethnics only'.

Animal Aid surveyed more than 300 non-meat-eaters who had stayed in hospital during the past two years. The findings are reported in Nil By Mouth: an Animal Aid UK-wide survey of vegetarian and vegan meals in hospitals. Surveys were also sent to 365 hospitals across the country. Shockingly, only 15 bothered to reply to the short questionnaire, and among these respondents were catering departments whose staff thought that fish was suitable for vegetarians and cheese for vegans.

Nil By Mouth is published to mark the start of Veggie Month, the national campaign group's month-long celebration of the cruelty-free diet, which is staged every March. The survey was designed to test how effectively the NHS's Better Hospital Food (BHF) scheme is being implemented. Initiated in July 2000, BHF was intended to improve food quality and availability and ensure that a variety of dietary needs, including vegetarian and vegan, were catered for fully. It was part of a larger set of strategies (the NHS Plan) that the government hoped would bring the health service more in line with patients' needs.

The Animal Aid survey found some excellent provision - such as in Poole Hospital, Dorset - but revealed that many hospitals do not fully understand what vegetarians and vegans eat. Despite a wealth of evidence** demonstrating the nutritional merits of a non-animal diet, 12% of veggie and 27% of vegan patients reported coming under negative pressure because of their dietary choice.

Says Animal Aid vegetarian campaigner Ajaye Curry:

"Many hospitals provide an excellent service for vegetarians but far too many veggie and especially vegan patients still come under intolerable, even abusive, pressure from hospital staff. Animal Aid urges all hospital caterers to give non-meat-eating patients equal status to those who do eat meat, and to provide at least one suitable hot meal every day. The NHS's own Better Hospital Food Guide requires such basic provision, and we now offer our own free guide to assist catering departments."

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