The NHS is being urged by The Vegan Society to include plant-based milk vouchers in its Healthy Start voucher initiative. At the moment, this only includes cow’s milk and vitamin D supplements derived from animals.
The Healthy Start vouchers are available for pregnant women and for people who have a child under four years old, and are offered on a means-tested basis. The vouchers can be spent on cow’s milk, fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk (also derived from cows).
The Vegan Society has written a formal letter to the NHS asking for the restriction on plant-based milks to be lifted as it “unreasonably disadvantages vegans”.
Dr Jeanette Rowley, Vegan Rights Advocate at The Vegan Society and solicitor Edie Bowles from Advocates for Animals said that without any lawful justification, the Healthy Start Voucher Scheme is discriminatory.
Heather Russell, dietician at The Vegan Society, said: “It is important for everyone to eat calcium-rich foods daily and fortified plant milks play an important role in vegan nutrition.
“In fact, the UK’s Eatwell Guide recognises that fortified plant milk represents a valuable alternative to cow’s milk. Calcium content is comparable and the soya variety is similar to cow’s milk in terms of protein quantity and quality.”
Not only is the exclusion of plant-based milk discriminatory to vegans, it also affects those with intolerances and allergies to dairy, which can be life-threatening.
The Vegan Society added that “veganism is a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010, meaning public authorities, such as the NHS, must ensure that they give due regard to the needs of vegans”.
The NHS has 14 days to respond to the letter sent on 11th March 2019.