A parliamentary report has revealed that vegetarians and vegans in care facilities are being fed meat in cases where their beliefs are being misunderstood.
An inquiry into the protection of philosophical or religious beliefs while eating in care has revealed examples of basic failings in care homes and hospitals when it comes to protecting the human rights of meat-free patients receiving care.
Led by All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Vegetarianism and Veganism, the report has highlighted cases where the diets of older vegans and vegetarians have been misunderstood or even ignored.
Chair of the APPG on Vegetarianism and Veganism, Christina Rees MP said, “The report sets out some shocking and deeply upsetting failures in the care of vulnerable people who have not had their rights protected.”
“This is clearly unacceptable and those of us who express our philosophical beliefs through our choice of diet will rightly feel saddened.
“However, everyone should be appalled by the failing to protect basic dignity that the report highlights.
“It is right that these examples are highlighted but I am also proud that the report sets out recommendations that will see improvement across the care sector.
“Some of those recommendations are simple and could be implemented easily. Others are more wide-ranging and will require support from all sides with the help of organisations such as Vegetarian for Life and The Vegan Society.”
The road to improvement with Vegetarian for Life
One of the organisations behind the report, Vegetarian for Life, is keen to work with care providers to ensure that standards are maintained throughout the sector.
They offer many resources for care facilities to advise and inform on how to correctly cater for vegetarians and vegans in care.
In the report, they make recommendations to start the process of improvement and set minimum standards for care, with a specific focus on food. The report calls for:
- Strengthening care regulations and related guidance – By recognising that philosophical beliefs are as important as an individual’s religious beliefs or cultural background.
- Introducing mandatory training– Helping carers to learn more about religious and philosophical beliefs including veganism, and to fully understand the importance of these beliefs.
- Dietary guides in kitchens – Ensuring that dietary practices arising from protected philosophical beliefs such as veganism and vegetarianism are easy to understand and accessible for chefs.
The report contains case studies giving many varied examples of failings in care facilities.
One such study shares John’s story, whose vegetarian parents were both admitted into hospital after being diagnosed with dementia.
His mother, who had previously stipulated that she would never want to eat meat, even if unable to make that decision for herself, was unfortunately fed meat during her stay.
When John questioned this, the ward manager said John’s mother couldn’t explain why she was vegetarian, so she wouldn’t be given vegetarian meals.
Unfortunately, John’s mother was unable to make any choices or decisions when she was hospitalised with dementia, and he found when he completed her meal request sheets, they would disappear when he wasn’t there.
Finally, his mother moved into a care home that seemed to cater well for vegetarians. It later came to light that the chef thought vegetarians ate fish, so she was often being served fish-based meals until John was able to correct that with them.
John was left feeling that he could not trust institutions to cater appropriately for vegetarians and vegans and that his parents had not been treated with dignity or respect.
A video summary of the report, featuring actor and Vegetarian for Life ambassador Peter Egan and Vegetarian for Life Patron Rose Elliot MBE, has been shared this week.
The video also shares more harrowing stories of failings in care for vegetarian and vegan diets.
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