Be a light consumer of animals

Why not try becoming veggie for a week to reduce your carbon footprint

For someone who has put a lot of effort into confounding the stereotype that Green Party members are all beardy, sandal-wearing, lentil-eating (etc. etc., insert your own favourites – the best one directed at me so far is ‘bunny-hugging’ from a caller on Radio 2), it may seem a bit odd that I have decided to give a big plug to National Vegetarian Week.

But no, not odd at all. The theme of this year’s event, run by the Vegetarian Society from this Monday to next Sunday, is how going veggie is good for the planet. And the fact is they are completely and utterly right.

Farmed cows and sheep are responsible for nearly two fifths of the total quantity of methane generated by human activity. As a greenhouse gas, methane trumps carbon dioxide many times over, so the contribution of animal farming to climate change is actually more than our entire transport system. This makes a lot of sense if you think about it. All of us eat things and most of us aren’t vegetarian, but not everyone has a car or a mini-break obsession (in fact only a tiny proportion of us globally have either).

Rearing animals also uses far more water than growing vegetarian food – thousands of litres go into making a kilogram of beef – and it uses up vast amounts of land, providing crops for food for animals for food for us. A madly inefficient way of managing the world’s resources.

What appeals to me most about the environmental argument for cutting down on meat is that it’s not an all or nothing thing. Reducing your carnivorousness is as easy as adding just a couple of new vegetable-based dishes to your repertoire, and every meal without meat helps to cut your carbon footprint. Simply bearing this in mind while you look over a menu is far less daunting than taking a pledge not to ever have a bacon sandwich again.

Nevertheless, I am going to take up the Vegetarian Society’s challenge and be completely veggie for the next week. To be honest, I’ve been a very light consumer of animals for ages – for precisely the environmental reasons listed above – and I already steer well clear of battery eggs and intensively farmed, frightened meat of all kinds.

Recently, I have unintentionally become even more virtuous, since discovering I prefer garlicky tofu to chicken in stir fries and developing a taste for a delicious recipe involving big green lentils mixed up with cabbage and drenched in vinaigrette. This latter fetish has amused my local shopkeeper, who knows all about my political work and chuckles, “Green Party, green lentils” when I go to stock up.

For myself then, with most days going by without meat touching my plate, and with the only flesh I can find in my fridge today a chunk of East European sausage, giving it up completely for a week shouldn’t be too hard. But I’d urge everyone to give it a go. Starting with a week of real vegetarianism is a great excuse to try some new things and start eating a bit more healthily – for yourself and for the planet.

Sian Berry lives in Kentish Town and was previously a principal speaker and campaigns co-ordinator for the Green Party. She was also their London mayoral candidate in 2008. She works as a writer and is a founder of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s
Getty
Show Hide image

The joy of only winning once: why England should be proud of 1966

We feel the glory of that triumphant moment, 50 years ago, all the more because of all the other occasions when we have failed to win.

There’s a phrase in football that I really hate. It used to be “Thirty years of hurt”. Each time the England team crashes out of a major tournament it gets regurgitated with extra years added. Rather predictably, when England lost to Iceland in Euro 2016, it became “Fifty years of hurt”. We’ve never won the European Championship and in 17 attempts to win the World Cup we have only won once. I’m going to tell you why that’s a record to cherish.

I was seven in 1966. Our telly was broken so I had to watch the World Cup final with a neighbour. I sat squeezed on my friend Colin’s settee as his dad cheered on England with phrases like “Sock it to them Bobby”, as old fashioned now as a football rattle. When England took the lead for the second time I remember thinking, what will it feel like, when we English are actually Champions of the World. Not long after I knew. It felt good.

Wembley Stadium, 30 July 1966, was our only ever World Cup win. But let’s imagine what it would be like if, as with our rivals, we’d won it many times? Brazil have been World Champions on five occasions, Germany four, and Italy four. Most England fans would be “over the moon” if they could boast a similarly glorious record. They’re wrong. I believe it’s wonderful that we’ve only triumphed once. We all share that one single powerful memory. Sometimes in life less is definitely more.

Something extraordinary has happened. Few of us are even old enough to remember, but somehow, we all know everything that happened that day. Even if you care little about the beautiful game, I’m going to bet that you can recall as many as five iconic moments from 50 years ago. You will have clearly in your mind the BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous lines, as Geoff Hurst tore down the pitch to score his hat-trick: “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now”. And it was. 4 - 2 to England against West Germany. Thirty minutes earlier the Germans had equalised in the dying moments of the second half to take the game to extra time.

More drama we all share: Geoff Hurst’s second goal. Or the goal that wasn’t, as technology has since, I think, conclusively proved. The shot that crashed off the cross bar and did or didn’t cross the line. Of course, even if you weren’t alive at the time, you will know that the linesman, one Tofiq Bakhramov, from Azerbaijan (often incorrectly referred to as “Russian”) could speak not a word of English, signalled it as a goal.

Then there’s the England Captain, the oh-so-young and handsome Bobby Moore. The very embodiment of the era. You can picture him now wiping his muddy hands on his white shorts before he shakes hands with a youthful Queen Elizabeth. Later you see him lifted aloft by his team mates holding the small golden Jules Rimet trophy.

How incredible, how simply marvellous that as a nation we share such golden memories. How sad for the Brazilians and Germans. Their more numerous triumphs are dissipated through the generations. In those countries each generation will remember each victory but not with the intensity with which we English still celebrate 1966. It’s as if sex was best the first time. The first cut is the deepest.

On Colin’s dad’s TV the pictures were black and white and so were the flags. Recently I looked at the full colour Pathe newsreel of the game. It’s the red, white and blue of the Union Jack that dominates. The red cross of Saint George didn’t really come into prominence until the Nineties. The left don’t like flags much, unless they’re “deepest red”. Certainly not the Union Flag. It smacks of imperialism perhaps. In 1966 we didn’t seem to know if we were English or British. Maybe there was, and still is, something admirable and casual about not knowing who we are or what is our proper flag. 

Twelve years later I’m in Cuba at the “World Festival of Youth” – the only occasion I’ve represented my country. It was my chance to march into a stadium under my nation’s flag. Sadly, it never happened as my fellow delegates argued for hours over what, if any, flag we British should walk behind. The delegation leaders – you will have heard of them now, but they were young and unknown then – Peter Mandelson, Trevor Phillips and Charles Clarke, had to find a way out of this impasse. In the end, each delegation walked into the stadium behind their flag, except the British. Poor Mandelson stood alone for hours holding Union Jack, sweltering in the tropical sun. No other country seemed to have a problem with their flag. I guess theirs speak of revolution; ours of colonialism.

On Saturday 30 July BBC Radio 2 will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final, live from Wembley Arena. Such a celebration is only possible because on 16 occasions we failed to win that trophy. Let’s banish this idea of “Fifty years of hurt” once and for all and embrace the joy of only winning once.

Phil Jones edits the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2. On Saturday 30 July the station celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final live from Wembley Arena, telling the story of football’s most famous match, minute by minuteTickets are available from: www.wc66.org