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
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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times