Health

“Inaccurate and Misleading”: Health Professionals Condemn Meat & Dairy Campaign Backed by UK Government

The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) has joined forces with Plant-Based Health Professionals UK (PBHP UK) to call out a government-backed campaign promoting meat and dairy consumption.

The organisations have sent an open letter to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to highlight their concerns over the Let’s Eat Balanced campaign. Timed to coincide with Veganuary, the campaign advocates consuming meat as a source of protein, zinc, iron, and vitamin B12. But DAUK and PBHP UK say that promoting animal product consumption is “at odds with established scientific evidence on healthy and sustainable diets”, and have called for the campaign to be retracted.

The organisations argue that the campaign’s claims are “inaccurate and misleading”, since all nutrients can be easily obtained from a well-planned plant-based diet. They explain that vitamin B12 — commonly thought of as an animal-derived nutrient — is actually made by microorganisms, and cows are given supplements in order to produce sufficient quantities.

Plant-based on a budget guide
© Plant-Based Health Professionals UK

Plant-based food system

The open letter calls for a shift to a plant-based food system, citing evidence that plant-based diets reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. It criticises the Let’s Eat Balanced campaign for ignoring the evidence that meat consumption is harmful — particularly in the case of red and processed meats, which have been recognised as carcinogens by the World Health Organization.

DAUK and PBHP UK also point out that the climate crisis is “the greatest ever threat to human health”, meaning that nutrition and sustainability are interrelated. They find that the Let’s Eat Balanced Campaign goes against the government’s own guidance, which states, “A diet rich in plant-based foods, and lower in animal source foods which have a significant environmental impact, has benefits for health and the environment”.

The letter cites UK-specific research showing that 70% of total food emissions in the UK come from red meat and dairy production. Furthermore, it references an analysis showing that if England adopted a completely plant-based diet, the NHS could save around £18.8 billion per year.

animal vs plant proteins
Image courtesy of The Freedom Food Alliance

Fighting misinformation

As interest in plant-based foods continues to grow, the animal agriculture industry is responding by spreading misinformation. In February, consumer advocacy organisation The Freedom Food Alliance published a report showing that the industry was using tactics such as the manipulation of social media through artificial intelligence and the misuse of corporate science to influence public opinion and policy. The report calls for “robust legislation, an end to greenwashing, and strict accountability” to counter the detrimental effects of these strategies on climate change policies.

In January, Oatly responded to a flurry of negative press coverage about oat milk, after publications claimed the drink was high in sugar and could cause nutrient deficiencies. The brand pointed out that the comparisons were misleading, with one article comparing the quantity of naturally occurring sugar in an entire carton of oat milk to the amount of refined sugar in a Mars bar. Oatly added that there has never been any scientific evidence that oat milk causes deficiencies.

The same month, Robbie Lockie of Plant Based News and the Freedom Food Alliance criticised a Daily Mail article that distorted a scientific study to claim that animal protein was necessary for healthy aging. In reality, the study found that plant protein was more beneficial.

“Dietary change is the single most impactful action we can take to improve the health of the planet,” said Dr. Shireen Kassam, director of PBHP UK. “Luckily we don’t need to choose between a liveable planet and our health. A shift away from eating meat and dairy to a mostly or exclusively plant-based diet can be associated with significant health benefits, with studies showing their ability to add healthy years to life.”

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