In the years where the expenditure of national healthcare systems is rocketing due to the pandemic, experts are beginning to quantify how much countries could save on healthcare if everyone went vegan. A study conducted in Taiwan and published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2019 showed that vegetarians have a lower rate of outpatient visits to the doctor, which translated into a 15% lower total medical expenditure per person compared with people who eat meat. 

Now, Dr Shireen Kassam, the founder of Plant Based Health Professionals UK, using this Taiwanese study as a guide and considering the UK spent £225.2 billion on healthcare expenditure in 2019, has concluded that, if everyone in the UK cut out meat this could “reduce healthcare expenditure by at least £30 billion.” 

Dr Kassam told to The Metro: “The climate crisis really is a health crisis and we can’t detach the two… Moving towards a plant-based food system is clearly one of the biggest impacts we can have, but I think people forget it’s a personal health issue too.”

And it would not only be the cost of the UK National Health Service (NHS) — or any equivalent national health provider in other countries — that would save money if all citizens went vegan. People who pay for their medicines could save money too. A recent study published by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that US seniors on vegan diets use 58% fewer medicines.

Dr Kassam also said: “We know that a vegan or vegetarian diet reduces the incidence of heart disease by about 25% and type two diabetes by over 50%. Vegans have a 15% reduction in cancer incidence as well.”

There have not been any specific studies comparing the impact of vegan and omnivore diets on the NHS but considering that there is plenty of studies showing that healthy vegan diets reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, high cholesterol, obesity, and type two diabetes, all of these being major health issues affecting a considerably high proportion of people, it is easy to imagine which sort of results such studies would provide. If neither the ethics of animal rights, the worries of the climate crisis, or the concerns for social justice are shifting enough the priorities of politicians and civil servants towards starting to seriously consider building a vegan world for our future, perhaps economics will.

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.