PETA’s anti-processed meat hospital food ad banned for being ‘too political’

Author: Maria Chiorando

Read Time:   |  3rd June 2023

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The NHS 'continues to serve carcinogenic red and processed meat to patients' says PETA, which tried to place the banned ad


An advert urging the NHS to stop serving carcinogenic red and processed meat to patients has been rejected for being political.

The ad was created by vegan charity PETA, which describes it as ‘thought-provoking’ and ‘not graphic’ at all, and planned to place it on billboards near hospitals.

However, it was rejected by a billboard supplier, which said it ‘[does] not run adverts of such political nature’.

PETA says the ad is not political, but instead ‘highlights that cancer, obesity, and heart disease rates in the UK have never been higher, placing an enormous burden on the NHS’.

And the poster itself says that ‘as patients are served bacon and sausages…the healthcare system may as well be encouraging people to smoke cigarettes’.

PETA argues that the consumption of processed meat has been linked to ‘higher rates of early death, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, chronic kidney disease, and strokes’.

Furthermore, it adds, the United Nations says that 80 per cent of chronic diseases are ‘preventable if we all adopt a healthy diet, alongside other good habits’.

Image © PETA

Image © PETA


Money saving claim

As a result, PETA argues: “The NHS could save more than £30 billion per year if all meals served in the UK were vegan.”

It is thought that this claim is based on a recent Taiwanese study, which found that meat eaters have a higher rate of outpatient visits to the doctor than vegetarians, who have healthier diets which tend to be lower in fat and higher in fruit, veg and wholegrains.

The researchers concluded that plant-based diets are ‘associated with significantly lower medical care expenditure and could be an effective strategy to alleviate the medical–economic burden in selected populations’.

The medical expenditure was calculated at around 15 per cent lower for vegetarians than meat-eaters, particularly when it comes to chronic illnesses including depression and heart disease among others.

Speaking about this study, Dr Shireen Kassam, founder of the Plant Based Health Professionals network, considered how this could equate to UK spending.

Some £225.2 billion was spent on healthcare in 2019, the equivalent of £3,371 per person.

If the 15 per cent lowered expenditure calculated by the Taiwainese study is used as a guide, if the UK was to ditch meat, this could ‘reduce healthcare expenditure by at least £30 billion,’ says Dr Kassam.

But PETA’s claim that switching to a veggie diet could save cash has come up against some opposition, with a right wing think tank accusing the organisation of ‘thriving on outrage’.

The Institute of Economic Affairs’ Chris Snowdon added: “Its claim that universal veganism would save the NHS £30 billion a year is preposterous and their comparison of meat with cigarettes is scientifically illiterate.”


Healthier diets tend to be higher in fruit, veg and wholegrains. Photo © Alexander Spatari via Getty Images

Healthier diets tend to be higher in fruit, veg and wholegrains. Photo © Alexander Spatari via Getty Images


NHS is ‘shooting itself in foot’

However, according to PETA Corporate Projects Manager Dr Carys Bennett: “The NHS is shooting itself in the foot by serving carcinogenic animal-derived foods laden with saturated fat that will further tax its already stretched system.

“Replacing meat, eggs, and dairy with vibrant vegan foods like vegetables, pluses, and grains would protect animals, the planet, and the health of the British public and save the NHS money.”

And the organisation noted that Lebanon has a fully vegan hospital in order to tackle the root cause of diseases, calling on the NHS to follow suit.

Red and processed meat has been linked with a slew of health conditions.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) ruled that processed meat is carcinogenic. 

And a 2019 study by Oxford University discovered that the risk of developing cancer can be increased substantially by consuming even small amounts of processed meat.

The researchers found that the risk of developing bowel cancer rose by almost a fifth for every 25g of processed meat consumed per day (around a single rasher of bacon or slice of ham).

Is a plant-based diet really healthier? Find out why vegans live longer here

Featured image © PETA

Written by

Maria Chiorando

Maria is an editor and journalist. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, the Guardian, TechnoBuffalo, Plant Based News, and Kent on Sunday among other national and regional titles.

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