Vegans hit out at Scottish ministers over health scheme ‘discrimination’

Vegans have hit out at Scottish ministers over a voucher scheme aimed at encouraging a good diet for pregnant women and young children.

Vegans have made a formal complaint to the Scottish Government. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Vegans have made a formal complaint to the Scottish Government. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Vegan Society has made a formal complaint about the Scottish Government’s new Healthy Start initiative – due to be launched this summer – which allows some pregnant women and parents of young children to claim free vouchers to spend on milk, fruit and vegetables.

However, the vouchers cannot be spent on plant milks commonly taken by vegans, who avoid all meat-based and dairy products.

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Healthy Start rules say vouchers can be used to purchase milk, which “must be plain cow’s milk” and can be whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed. It must also be pasteurised, sterilised, long-life or ultra-heat treated. Soya milk is ruled out, alongside flavoured, coloured, evaporated, condensed, goat’s and powdered milk (except infant formula) and milk with additives such as vitamins. Infant formula must be “based on cow’s milk”.

Veganism is recognised as a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010, meaning public bodies must ensure due regard is given to the community’s needs.

Vegans believe Scotland’s new scheme discriminates against those who choose to avoid animal products without lawful justification.

Now they have sent a letter to NHS Scotland to demand a rethink, asking for the restriction on plant milk to be lifted and for any supplements given out to be vegan-friendly.

Dr Jeanette Rowley, vegan rights advocate at the Vegan Society, said: “The aim of the new Healthy Start voucher scheme is to support healthy eating. The Scottish Government has already acknowledged the nutritional benefits of plant milk, and has no lawful grounds to restrict the purchase of milk to cow milk only.

“This proposed restriction unfairly disadvantages vegans and may constitute discrimination under equality law.”

Vegan Society dietitian Heather Russell, insists fortified plant milk represents a healthy and nutritious 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,” she said.

“It is important for everyone to eat calcium-rich foods daily and fortified plant milk plays an important role in vegan nutrition.”

The society has said it will consider legal action if the issues raised are ignored.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government, which is responsible for the Healthy Start scheme, said ….. TO FOLLOW.