13th February 2000

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Paul and Linda McCartney:

Rock stars now vegetarian activists

By Mahipali

Sir Paul McCartney of Beatles fame is best known as a celebrity figure in modern music. Beatles fans in Sri Lanka would perhaps be surprised to hear that both Paul and his wife Lady Linda were front-line vegetarian activists.

Linda, who died in April 1998, was a Patron of the Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom. The Summer 1998 issue of the Society's Newsmagazine "The Vegetarian" published a tribute to Linda and excerpts from an interview given by her in 1995.

In this interview Linda McCartney comments on the veggie trends in UK and USA. "In the past ten years," she says, "eating habits in both countries have changed dramatically. According to the UK surveys, there's been a 300% increase in the number of female vegetarians (in Britain) in that time and in the US, the number of veggies has doubled. I think people in the USA, UK and around the world are becoming more aware of what they're eating and how it affects them. But then, we seem to be living in a time of great awareness anyway .. 10 years ago Nelson Mandela was in prison, the Berlin Wall was still up and the Soviet Bloc was still dictating. It is the same with our diet. All over the world, people are freeing themselves from the traditional, older ways of being, to enjoy a healthier, kinder way of life".

"As a group, it's the teenage girls both here and in America who have become the animals' greatest allies. Recently in Britain, a survey was conducted among readers of a teenage girls' magazine and the results were astonishing - 49% of girls aged 14-16 were vegetarian and many of them had been veggie for a couple of years. I think the meat industry is in for a big shock as more and more young women are sticking to their beliefs".

In its tribute to Lady McCartney, The Vegetarian goes on to say, "Linda McCartney can take a lot of the credit for bringing vegetarianism firmly into the mainstream in the UK. She helped change people's attitudes to vegetarianism, making vegetarian convenient foods accessible to all and a familiar sight on supermarket shelves as it had never been before." She entered the vegetarian food industry, not in search of profit, but because, in her own words, it was her greatest hope to make "this new food available in every country of the world. I want to create tasty meatless alternatives .. so that people can enjoy the taste but nothing has to suffer for their appetite". Her husband Paul remarked, "A less likely business woman you could not hope to meet.. she was a person who was driven by principle, passion and compassion, stating 'vegetarianism isn't a business for me, rather a mission'.

Started in 1991, the Linda McCartney Foods has become a multi-million pound enterprise, producing as of last year 38 varieties of vegetarian meals. "Her pioneering vision made other manufacturers sit up and realise the growth in popularity of vegetarianism and just what a massive potential market now existed", many going on to produce their own ready-made vegetarian meals.

On the massive growth of the McCartney brand as a house-hold name in food, Paul commented "How many women can you think of. who would single-handedly take on the Meat and Livestock Commission, risk not being laughed at, and yet succeed?"

In 1989, Lady McCartney ventured successfully into culinary literary production with the publication of Linda McCartney's Home Cooking. Another work by her, Linda's Kitchen, which appeared in 1995, sold over 400,000 copies, demonstrating the popularity of the meat-free diet and encouraging other authors and publishers to follow suit.

Having been vegetarians for well over 20 years, Paul and Linda McCartney became patrons of VSUK in May 1995. In a fitting tribute to this unique woman, the 1998 UK National Vegetarian Week celebrations were dedicated to her memory. But, as Sir Paul remarked, "The tribute she would have liked best would be for people to go vegetarian."

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