Marisa Heath from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare talks to Vegan Life about Veganism and Politics
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – Albert Einstein.
I run the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW), one of the few Parliamentary Groups based in the House of Commons that can boast significant political membership and the very useful membership of outside bodies. This membership includes the obvious welfare organisations and charities but also business and industry with animal involvement such as supermarkets, pharmaceutical companies, research bodies and pet retailers. We aim to look at issues rationally and balance the argument so that we get the right and acceptable position with the fundamental aim of benefiting animal welfare.
I should probably set out at this point that I am a vegan, I have studied nutrition, and animal welfare/environmentalism is my number one priority, although I have been a political advisor on many other issues for over twelve years.
APGAW discusses a range of subjects; hunting, snaring, dog breeding, wildlife crime and many others but the one subject which does not get enough airing in Government is food sustainability, animal products, and the strong links between the environment and health. Yet this is the subject in which human welfare and animal welfare can come neatly together.
Accepting that animal produce consumption needs to be a political issue and measures need to be taken to reduce that consumption is a highly contentious subject. However, the only real losers are the meat and dairy industry, multi-million pound empires benefiting from the sale of often poor quality product fuelling a population who believe it is acceptable to eat meat at breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Financial loss that would simply involve a change in businesses as people still need to eat, meaning monetary transactions whatever it is. Almond milk, quinoa, and soya lattes can all pay taxes and business rates as easily as mince, burgers and cow’s milk lattes. It is time for environmentalists, animal welfare campaigners, and health campaigners to get a collective voice which is louder than the meat lobby. The economic argument should not be good enough to win this battle as it has done over the last few decades. I want to help drive this collective voice through my work in Parliament and I need your help.
Maybe food choices and telling voters not to eat so much bacon isn’t one of the high-profile issues the public expects politicians to be debating. It is not considered as important as terrorism, social benefits, the economy and house building. However, as environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for meat and milk is a driving force behind nearly every element of environmental destruction threatening our future – deforestation, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilisation of communities, and the spread of disease. It is evident that farm animals take much more land than crops do to produce a given amount of food energy.
We have gained more understanding owing not just to the environmental sciences, but also the health sciences, with the known benefits to humans of eating less meat and moving towards a more grain and vegetable based diet including fewer calories, less fat, and providing a lower risk of heart disease among other things. Armed with this information you would expect meat consumption to fall. Actually per-capita meat consumption has more than doubled in the past half-century as population and prosperity have increased. Clearly the information is not getting through or people are choosing to ignore it – which means it needs to be strengthened. Government is the mechanism with which to do this.
Whilst it is a touchy subject to tell people what they can and cannot eat, it is not an issue politicians can responsibly avoid forever. In doing so they jeopardise our futures, and all the nuclear weapons, home ownership and pensions in the world will not protect us. Surely for those reasons it should be at the centre of political debate. Whilst I haven’t touched much on the ethics of veganism, I think in terms of our evolution politicians should also be leaders, ensuring civilisation moves forward and as a species we keep order through compassion and respect for other species.
At the moment politicians receive huge postbags of subjects relating to foreign aid spending, budget cuts, housing, minimum pay and jobs. They need to start seeing more correspondence on the subject of food sustainability and our lobby needs to grow as a force. You have the right to contact your MP about any issue which concerns you so please do write, email, telephone, book in an appointment to see him or her about this issue. Make it clear that it is important and voters do want their politicians to take action.
Veganism is not a small trend, it is a movement – and the sooner it is recognised as a very serious and progressive movement the more chance we have of a future.
Get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.apgaw.org.