The NHS plans to serve patients meat from deer culled in England’s woodlands, with the plans – already under construction at a hospital trust – being rejected by animal rights activists.
The East Lancashire Hospital Trust has been serving game culled by Forestry England for a year, just 13 miles away in the Forest of Boland and Grizedale.
Now other trusts are signing up to follow suit – 20 deer are expected to serve by the end of the year.
Experts have hailed the wild meat, which is high in protein, zinc and iron and naturally low in fat, as an ideal choice to help patients make a full recovery.
The East Lancashire Hospital Trust has been serving game culled by Forestry England for a year, just 13 miles away in the Forest of Boland and Grizedale. Pictured: NHS Chef with the Trust’s venison pie
And the dishes are consistently the most chosen menu items – with the venison and winter vegetable pie and Lancashire venison and mashed casserole making up more than a third of patient meal choices in December.
But the move has already been rejected by animal rights activists, who say the red meat should be dumped for vegetables and tofu.
Dawn Carr, the director of Vegan Corporate projects at PETA, said: “No animal – whether it’s a gentle deer being killed in the guise of a ‘hold’ or a pig or cow being hanged and shot with a bolt gun – would die to served in a stew or as a spread.
Highland Game supplies the meat to the East Lanchashire NHS trust of Forestry England
“Animals suffer greatly for meat, and serving it in hospitals should be phased out immediately because it’s like handing out cigarettes for lung cancer benefits.
‘Heart attacks, stroke, cancer and diabetes – the UK’s leading causes of death – have all been linked to diets heavy in the saturated fat found in animal foods.
‘So dumping animal meat in favor of healthy, hearty and humane vegetables, legumes and tofu would be great news for NHS patients and staff.
‘Serving vegan meals would also be a cost-effective solution in the long run and better for the environment – just what the doctor ordered!’
With the UK’s deer population believed to be at its highest level in 1,000 years, 350,000 deer are culled each year.
Adam Fisk, of Highland Game, who supply the meat to the NHS Trust of Forestry England, said: ‘Highland Game is working incredibly hard to take a seasonal and variable source of game meat and present it to modern markets by working to the highest standards of welfare, processing and food safety, a philosophy shared by all our suppliers.
With the UK’s deer population believed to be at its highest level in 1,000 years, 350,000 deer are culled each year (stock image)
‘Working with the NHS is a testament to that ethos and a real win-win situation as patients, visitors and staff can be fed on Britain’s naturally available wild game.
‘Safety doesn’t have to be just about good food, with the right choice of cuts presented in the right meal sizes, and when the health and environmental benefits are taken into account, deer has an excellent combined value proposition.
“Now that we’re rolling it out, we’re using all of Forestry England’s game.
“All those public forests where people go to walk their dogs and go to Go Ape – there’s a whole forest management program behind the scenes of those locations.
“They have a deer management plan where they assess the numbers in the forests – which are increasing at the moment – and then they clear a certain area to try to control the population.
“They clean it up and then they have quality assurance and then we drive a truck to pick it up and then take them to the factory for processing.
The Royal Blackburn Hospital, which is part of the East Lancashire Hospital Trust
“It will go through a series of different checks and then some of the carcass that is diced will go to the NHS – the rest will go to our normal customers, Tescos, Morrisons, Aldi etc.”
The project was set up by Tim Radcliffe, now the NHS’s National Net Zero Food Program manager.
He said: ‘We want to give patients and staff the very best food we can. As meat goes, venison is low in fat and has good nutrients to aid recovery and promote good patient health.
“Wild venison is a cost-neutral option compared to other meats – and if you can buy sustainable, high-quality ingredients sourced within a 30-mile radius, why would you ever consider importing meat?
“By working with Forestry England and Highland Game we can get game straight from the Forest of Bowland, so it can’t become local anymore.”
In August, the East Lancashire Trust and Forestry England partnership was nominated for a food innovation award by the BBC Food and Farming Awards.
In the first year of the partnership, Forestry England supplied 1,000kg of diced game used in meals for patients and staff.