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Hospitals Take Animals Off Menus to Cut Carbon

Across the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, hospitals have a plan to cut their global warming emissions that includes curbing meat and dairy use (among a slew of other strategies), according to yesterday's Guardian. (Here's the article, and thanks to Bill for the tip. And how about the photo of the pizzas? A bit odd given the topic, which does include dairy, as it should.) The NHS is the biggest employer in Europe and accounts for 3% of the emissions in England and 25% of public-sector emissions in England.

Among the most talked-about is likely to be the suggestion that hospitals could cut carbon emissions from food and drink by offering fewer meat and dairy products. Last year, the United Nations climate chief, Rajendra Pachauri, provoked a global debate when he said having a meat-free day every week was the biggest single contribution people could make to curbing climate change in their personal lives, because of the chemicals sprayed on feed crops and the methane emitted by cattle and sheep. Last week, the German federal environment agency went further, advising people to eat meat only on special occasions. Pencheon said the move would cut the relatively high carbon emissions from rearing animals and poultry, and improve health. Last year the NHS served 129m main meals, costing £312m, according to Department of Health figures. "We should not expect to see meat on every menu," said Pencheon. "We'd like higher levels of fresh food, and probably higher levels of fresh fruit and veg, and more investment in a local economy."

There is a suggestion (in the accompanying audio) that this is just "cost cutting with a green wrapper," which might be somewhat true, but the cost/emissions-cutting ideas all seem to be valid. (What do you think about them?)

I don't know the first thing about influencing the menus in hospitals in the US (though PCRM does), and I'd imagine that private hospitals are analogous to private schools, and public ones are analogous to public schools (translation: private ones are easier to influence, particularly if you're a stakeholder). If you work in a hospital, contacting PCRM for help would be your first step.

The poll connected to the article, "Will you be eating less meat?" by the way, is currently split nearly 50/50, with "No, I'm an omnivore" slightly in the lead. I guess you can look at that as either a glass half empty or half full.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I think this is fantastic. I fortunately don't have much experience with hospitals, but last fall I visited someone at one. The selection of food in the cafeteria was horrible. The veggies were cooked in butter. The pasta was the white-flour, processed kind. Of course, everything else was meat. I guess they wanted to ensure they stay in business.

    January 27, 2009
  2. Kula #

    I think it's ironic that people go to hospital to get treatment for diabetes, cancer and heart disease only to go to the hospital canteen and eat animal parts that are full of cholesterol and saturated fat.

    January 28, 2009

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