“This appointment will go down in history with me”, said the Nurse. I had just asked her whether the travel injections she was suggesting for me were Vegan.
By this point I already wasn’t in her good books. Firstly I had the audacity to not know all the injections I had when I was 3 years old. Then she had to go and find my medical information which consisted of 3 little folders of screwed up paper.
I wasn’t exactly feeling great that my medical history hadn’t made it into the digital world.
So there we sat. It was a standoff.
Back to the injections. I told the Nurse that I can’t have gelatin which is used as a thickener in foods, cosmetics and medicine. It is obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments and bones with water normally obtained from cows or pigs.
The Nurse proceeded to tell me how I didn’t really have a choice and that the gelatin they use is ‘very pure’, and they use very little. I responded by saying “How do you make boiled animal bones pure?” Tense…
I told her the thought of having injections that contained traces of animals upset me.
She was astonished by how important it was to me and said: “ You don’t have a choice, you’re going away and you need these injections”.
There might have been alternatives available but they didn’t have them at that practice and they would have to be ordered in.
I was put on the spot and reluctantly I got the injections. Afterwards I felt sick for days both physically and mentally as I reflected on what happened, I started to feel pissed off.
After all should I have been made to feel that way? Veganism is covered under article 9 of the Human Rights Act, meaning it is considered to be belief system like major religions.
Would a Muslim have been told they have no choice to have an injection that had traces of pig?
I don’t know… Anyway, why is a product that is unacceptable to a growing percent of the population so prevalent in our medicine?
My mind started to race and it turns out that anti malaria tablets Doxycycline which cost 19p per day are also not Vegan. The Vegan option Atovaquone and Proguanil will cost you £1.40 a day.
This is just the tip of the iceberg try finding allergy tablets or flu capsules without gelatin, it’s not the easiest of tasks.
Being vegan is really important to me as it is others who make this conscious choice to live an ethical life free from the consumption or use of animal derived products.
Finding Vegan foods is easier than ever before but it feels like the medical industry as a whole are lagging behind.
People are turning to veganism for health reasons and as a result experiencing life transformative health benefits.
But the NHS is still very reluctant to promote veganism as a diet than can help people maintain a healthy weight and even help reverse type 2 diabetes.
A world with vegan medicine as default would be a non-discriminatory one and a step in the right direction in removing cruelty from the pharmaceutical industry which is currently responsible for so much animal suffering.
Society is ready for change but are our medical institutions and the pharmaceutical industry?