Victoria Martindale: Where's the NHS compassion towards animals on its menu?
ONE of the six values that lies at the heart of everything the NHS does is compassion: a commitment to humanity and kindness.
Get ready to be shocked. The NHS serves most of its meals from animals reared in some of the worst welfare conditions allowed by law in this country, and Derby hospitals rank among the lowest.
Ninety-nine per cent of eggs served at the Royal Derby Hospital and London Road Community Hospital come from battery hens.
These hens spend their entire lives in barren, over-crowded cages unable to spread their wings and are denied the ability to express any natural behaviour, such as scratching about, making nests or dust bathing.
All of the chicken and pork served at Derby hospitals comes from farms that fail to meet the minimal standards that the RSPCA deems necessary in terms of animal welfare.
The housing and rearing conditions of these poor creatures is abysmal, failing to offer any kind of quality of life and forcing them to live a lifetime of confinement and distress before a terrifying and horrific premature death.
This information, revealed by the RSPCA and the national Campaign for Better Hospital Food group, highlights an underlying contradiction between the image of the NHS as an all-caring, kindhearted bastion of compassion and empathy and its support for the most appalling conditions found in the intensive factory farming business.
It cuts to the heart of the NHS as a compassionate institution of our society.
It repudiates the values that lie at its core and suggests that the sensibilities of our NHS apply solely and exclusively to members of one species while a very different set of values applies to every other.
I cannot fathom how any establishment, let alone one like the NHS, can cherish one species as the most important in this universe to the extent that any other non-human animal is beyond its sphere of compassion.
When other sentient creatures experience suffering and pain in just the same way as we do, it seems strange how a universal value can be applied so selectively.
For the NHS to serve meals of such an appallingly low animal welfare standard on one hand while we are led to regard it as the most compassionate sector of society on the other suggests quite remarkable arrogance and lack of sympathy.
More fundamentally, the NHS has an obligation to endorse and be seen to endorse nothing but the highest standards of compassion and care without discrimination.
Yet serving these meals does anything but this and undermines its own ethos.
The NHS should show it really is a caring service and ensure all its meals meet the animal welfare standards expected by consumers and, at a minimum, meet RSPCA Freedom Food standards.
Cage-free conditions are a step in the right direction to fulfil the NHS value of compassion that it claims lies at the heart of everything it does.