Farmers and industry leaders reacted with fury this week as Sir Paul McCartney raised the stakes in his “Meat-free-Monday” drive by taking his campaign to the European Parliament.
The former Beatle said cutting out meat consumption on one day a week could have a major impact on reducing global warming.
Sir Paul used an interview in Parliament Magazine to argue that halving UK household meat consumption would do more to reduce emissions than halving the use of private transport.
In the article, Sir Paul, an outspoken vegetarian and animal rights activist who started his campaign in June, appealed for “people power” to make the difference in the fight against global warming.
He said there was clear evidence that meat production was a “major contributor” to climate change.
“A lower-meat diet could see greenhouse gases reduced by as much as 80%,” he said.
Sir Paul was due to take part in a EU Parliament conference called “Global Warming and Food Policy: Less Meat = Less Heat” yesterday (Thursday, 3 December) in Brussels.
The rock star was due to interrupt a European tour to fly to Brussels to make his case at the hearing.
Sir Paul said he would appeal to world leaders, who will be converging on Copenhagen for climate talks in the next few days.
“The more meat we produce and eat, the bigger that carbon footprint will get. We simply cannot go on consuming like this,” Sir Paul said.
But farmers and politicians accused Sir Paul of hypocrisy.
They said he should focus on reducing his own carbon footprint, instead of singling out agriculture.
Colin Rayner, director of Berkyn Manor Farm, in Horton, Berkshire, said: “Sir Paul should consider his own carbon footprint.
“How much damage has production of raw materials used in his own vinyls and millions of albums done to the global environment?”
Kim Haywood, director of the National Beef Association, said Sir Paul’s argument was “completely irresponsible”. Beef and other meat was an important food which was an essential part of the diet for millions, she said.
And Mairead McGuinness, MEP for East Ireland, said she would go head-to-head with Sir Paul in the debate.
“The latest fad is the push by vegetarians to see their chosen dietary choice as the solution to the climate change – when what it really is, is a lifestyle choice for some,” said Ms McGuinness.