Holy lands welcome vegetarian McDonald's

Pilgrims can now eat their McSpicy Paneers.

 

As reported by the Financial Times this morning, McDonald’s is due to open its first vegetarian restaurants in the Indian villages of Amristar and Katra, Sikh and Hindu pilgrimage sites respectively:

“A vegetarian store makes absolute sense in the places which are famous as pilgrimage sites,” said Rajesh Kumar Maini, a spokesman for McDonald’s India.

The article goes on to state that the branches will sell existing vegetarian options, such as the McSpicy Paneer, and hope to expand the range.

McDonald’s, for all its rampant Americanisation of the world, has always been good at giving people what they want. For instance, in Portugal, you can get beer with your meal, while in Indonesia the chicken and rice combo has proved more popular. (Here’s a list of “weird” menu items from around the world). The truth is, McDonald’s responds to market demands because it’s good for business, and is, in this sense, one of the few truly democratic institutions we have (I suppose advertising sways things, but still, we’re not complete idiots). The Amristar and Katra branches allude to the fact that if people really cared about animal rights, McDonald’s would go vegetarian. And while you could argue that the conglomerate epitomises and perpetuates consumerism, I cannot think of a good less snobby; unlike Starbucks, it is not built around a culture of conspicuous consumption, and is one of the few things that is affordable for most (see Andy Warhol on Coca-cola).

That said, McDonald’s does make every high street and holy land a bit less interesting and a bit more like every other place you’ve been.

Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.