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The central question is: if vegetarianism is so good, how come everyone does not embrace it today? That question ignores the fact that 2,000 people a week are becoming vegetarians, with the fastest growth among teenagers--but even that increase is simply not enough. Part of the reason why it is not greater lies in the years of accumulated prejudice against vegetarianism--for example, the image of the veggie as a spotty nerd sporting a woolly hat, an anorak and socks worn under open-toed sandals-- [Interruption.] How unlike myself, Madam Speaker.

Such a caricature is fast fading, but vegetarianism is still seen by those in authority as a mild form of eccentricity, to be pitied and patronised. The "real men eat meat" syndrome-- [Interruption.] --characterised by those on the Government Benches, is still with us. That is all part of the myth carefully fostered by the meat industry--a powerful industry heavily backed by Government, with both resources and propaganda.

The Meat and Livestock Commission has a staff of about 600 and an annual budget of about £43 million, some £4 million of which comes direct from the Government. Compare that with the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Information Bureau, run as one of the accounts of a public relations consultancy, which has a budget of about £130,000 and four staff paid by the PR firm.

In other words, in terms of ability to inform, to advertise and to influence, there is no contest. One has only to think of the £10 million campaign by the MLC, "Recipe for Love", or the £14 million spent on the "Meat to Live" campaign, to realise that the dice are loaded. Massive subsidies are handed out by the taxpayer to the meat-producing industry.

We need to redress this terrible imbalance, and the purpose of my Bill is to set up a fruit and vegetable commission funded by the industry and by Government, with the Government using some of the massive savings gained by the health service when a growing proportion of the population switches to vegetarianism.

A vital part of the work of that new commission would be public education. People in this country are poisoning themselves through ignorance, and the Government in part connive at that scandalous and eminently avoidable situation. My Bill would seek to alleviate that ignorance, and to promote a healthier and a happier nation. 3.53 pm

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham): As a partial vegetarian for many more years than the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), I must tell him that we do not need an extra publicly created body. Incidentally, I do not regard any of the characteristics that the hon. Gentleman attributed to vegetarians as applicable to me. He also said that listeria came from animals, whereas I thought that in general it came from cheese.

If the hon. Gentleman wants a public body to promote fruit and vegetables, why does he not give that as an extra responsibility to the Covent Garden market authority, which already exists? He claimed that one in three Americans develops cancer each year--but that would mean 80 million people a year, and I do not believe that figure.

Mr. Tony Banks: During their lifetime.

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Mr. Bottomley: That may be so, but that is not what the hon. Gentleman said.

If we imagine that, in just one part of the United Kingdom--Northern Ireland, in which there are 35,000 farmers, one third of them full-time-- all farmers had to turn all their fields to set-aside, we should discover what the land could and would look like without the farmers.

As a final point, I would say to those who like the look of sheep and cows in the fields that one cannot have livestock without dead stock. I recommend that people make up their own minds about what they eat and supply, and the House ought to send the hon. Gentleman off to Covent Garden today.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No.19 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business): --

The House divided: Ayes 95, Noes 66.

Division No. 97] [3.54 pm


Column 346

Adams, Mrs Irene

Ainger, Nick

Allen, Graham

Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Bayley, Hugh

Berry, Roger

Burden, Richard

Byers, Stephen

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)

Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)

Campbell-Savours, D N

Canavan, Dennis

Chisholm, Malcolm

Clark, Dr David (South Shields)

Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)

Coffey, Ann

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Dalyell, Tam

Davidson, Ian

Dowd, Jim

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eastham, Ken

Etherington, Bill

Fatchett, Derek

Flynn, Paul

Foster, Don (Bath)

Galbraith, Sam

Gapes, Mike

Godman, Dr Norman A

Gordon, Mildred

Gunnell, John

Hain, Peter

Hall, Mike

Hanson, David

Hardy, Peter

Heppell, John

Hill, Keith (Streatham)

Hinchliffe, David

Hutton, John

Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)

Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)

Jowell, Tessa

Keen, Alan

Column 346

Khabra, Piara S

Lewis, Terry

Liddell, Mrs Helen

Livingstone, Ken

Lynne, Ms Liz

McAllion, John

Mackinlay, Andrew

McMaster, Gordon

Madden, Max

Maddock, Diana

Marshall, David (Shettleston)

Meale, Alan

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Miller, Andrew

Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)

Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)

Mullin, Chris

Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon

O'Brien, William (Normanton)

O'Hara, Edward

Pearson, Ian

Pope, Greg

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)

Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)

Primarolo, Dawn

Rendel, David

Roche, Mrs Barbara

Rooney, Terry

Sedgemore, Brian

Sheerman, Barry

Simpson, Alan

Skinner, Dennis

Soley, Clive

Spink, Dr Robert

Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)

Steinberg, Gerry

Stott, Roger

Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)

Timms, Stephen

Tipping, Paddy

Vaz, Keith

Walley, Joan

Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)

Wray, Jimmy

Tellers for the Ayes: Jean Corston and Mr. Jeremy Corbyn. NOES

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