Beirut Hospital Food Goes Vegan: ‘Serving Meat is Like Serving Cigarettes’

Hayek Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, will only serve vegan food from now on. According to the hospital, it’s the first in the world to do so.

The hospital confirmed the move in an Instagram post at the beginning of this month. It read: “Our patients will no longer wake up from surgery to be greeted with ham, cheese, milk, and eggs… the very food that may have contributed to their health problems in the first place.”

While it may initially seem like an extreme change of attitude, a growing body of research does link animal product consumption with an increased risk of serious illness.

Processed meat, for example, is listed as a Group 1 carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO). This classification is the same as tobacco and asbestos. It means the product is known to cause cancer.

Red meat is listed as Group 2A, which means it is “probably” carcinogenic to humans. The hospital referred to this information in the text below its post, noting that “serving meat in a hospital is like serving cigarettes in a hospital.”

Studies have also found a link between meat and an increased risk of heart disease, one of the most common causes of death in the world.

Last year, a study from Northwestern University with nearly 30,000 participants found that eating two servings of red meat, processed meat, or poultry every week could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by three to seven percent.

Vegan Hospital Food

In contrast, plant-based, whole foods are associated with a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases.

For example, a 2017 study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Diet, Digestive Tract, and Disease Centre, found that replacing one to two servings of animal protein per day with high-quality plant-based protein could reduce cholesterol markers by five percent. (High cholesterol is linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.)

Hayek Hospital has been leading up to the plant-based menu change for a while. Its post continued: “Just last year, our patients were given the choice to choose between an animal-based meal and a vegan meal. During this transition phase, our patients were provided with information on the benefits of an exclusive plant-based whole food diet versus the dangers of animal-based food consumption.”

In the text beneath the post, the hospital also pointed out the link between animal agriculture and emerging infectious diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases come from animals.

The post added: “We believe it’s well about time to tackle the root cause of diseases and pandemics, not just treat symptoms.”