More than 100 NHS doctors have signed an open letter calling on the UK government to tax meat and shift away from an “unhealthy and unsustainable food system.”
In the letter, the doctors and more than 100 other health professionals urged the UK government to overhaul its current food system.
“We, NHS doctors, are urging NHS leaders and the Government to pass bold post-COVID-19 legislation to allow for rapid nationwide changes to the obesogenic and unsustainable food environment in which we currently live,” the doctors wrote.
They continued: “This environment has added to the UK’s COVID-19 pandemic death toll.”
Meat Consumption and Chronic Disease
The doctors explain that they want to shift away from reactive healthcare, which waits for a health issue to arise before taking steps to solve it.
Instead, the signatories say they want to shift the healthcare system to one that “promotes health and prevents chronic illness” from occurring in the first place.
They explain that three in four of the world’s new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning the diseases are able to pass from animals to humans typically by way of the wildlife trade or factory farming.
The signatories write that diets high in meat and other animal products, as well as processed foods, are “driving the epidemic of chronic disease and increasing the risk of dying from COVID-19.”
Return to ‘Business as Usual’
In the letter, NHS doctors and healthcare professionals say they are concerned the UK government will return to “business as usual” once the pandemic is over.
“It is not acceptable that the NHS is collapsing under the burden of chronic diseases, the majority of which could be prevented and treated by addressing diet and lifestyle factors,” they wrote.
The proposal includes a tax on processed foods, as well as meat and other animal products. It calls for the introduction of healthy, sustainable foods through public sector catering in places like prisons, hospitals, and schools.
The letter requests subsidies “to support the UK population in adopting a predominantly whole food, plant-based diet for both human and planetary health.”
It also urges the promotion of a plant-based food system with the adoption of Conservation Agriculture systems, which would help to “reduce the risk of entering a ‘post-antibiotic era” and lower carbon emissions.