Vegan Society dubs UK 'Healthy Start' programme 'discriminatory' after it offers cow's milk products to new mothers

A vegan organization has dubbed the UK's National Health Service "discriminatory" as it offers new mothers vouchers to buy cow's milk products.

The NHS 'Healthy Start' programme offers vouchers to pregnant women and new mothers on the benefit to help them buy foods including milk, vitamins, fruit and vegetables.

In the guidelines for the initiative, it states the vouchers can only be spent on plain cow's milk and infant formula milk which is made from cow's milk.

Plant-based alternatives such as almond or soy milk cannot be purchased with the vouchers.

Now activists from The Vegan Society have written to the service, urging it to include vegan substitutes in the programme.

The letter says, while the society is sure the lack of vegan alternatives "was most likely an inadvertent result of the scheme"; it hopes the NHS will discuss the issue further.

"The convictions of vegans come within the protection of the law and, on the face of it, it appears that the Healthy Start voucher scheme could be inadvertently discriminatory," the letter adds.

It also includes comment from Heather Russell, a dietician at the Vegan Society, who wrote that it's "important for everyone to eat calcium-rich foods daily".

"Fortified plant milk plays an important role in vegan nutrition - calcium content is comparable and the soya variety is similar to cow's milk in terms of protein quantity and quality," she wrote.

As of the start of this year, New Zealand ranked third highest in the world for veganism. Our appetite for plant based foods is growing so rapidly product suppliers are struggling to keep up, according to a Vegan Food and Living report.