The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973

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Interviews

Interview with Lord Weatherill

From The Vegetarian of Spring 2002:

When did you go vegetarian, and why?

I was a vegetarian almost from birth - something to do with reincarnation, perhaps!

In those days (b.1920) to refuse to eat meat was unacceptable. At the age of 7, when I was sent away to a boarding school, I was forced to sit next to the headmaster at lunchtime, with the same piece of gristle in my mouth...I hardly ever played games. At the age of about 12 I was sent to a psychologist, who eventually pronounced: 'Why force him - let him become a vegetarian.' But at my public school, Malvern, it was even worse! To be the only boy in the school to have special food (and often better food) was not good news, and I left with a singular distinction - I was called 'The Senior Inferior' - more or less written off.

Has being vegetarian affected your career?

In retrospect, although I did not contemplate it at the time, I think it strengthened my character. I have remained something of a rebel. It also gave me an affinity with other 'inferiors'. During my Speakership, a senior minister once accused me of making life difficult for him, to which I recollect saying: "The prefects can look after themselves - I'm here to look after the 'inferiors', both senior and junior", ie. the backbenchers.

What's your favourite meal?

Heinz tomato soup, followed by my wife's cheese souffle, followed by ice cream saturated in cassis, then mature Cheddar and a small glass of port.

Thereafter, a short nap!

Do you have a favourite restaurant?

'Cranks' - alas, no more, but these days I prefer to eat at home.

Are vegetarians well catered for in Parliament?

When I entered the Commons in 1964 vegetarians were not catered for, but today there are 80 chefs and the vegetarian options are deservedly popular in the dining rooms and the canteens.

Did you make any New Year Resolutions? What are you looking forward to this year?

I have had an unbelievably full and interesting life and at the age of 80+ I have few personal ambitions left. However, in the light of the events of 11th September, I hope people will begin to understand that the greatest challenge and danger facing our world is the serious imbalance of wealth and resources between rich and poor nations. The consumption of meat is not just a question of cruelty to animals but of cruelty to people! It is the duty of politicians to look ahead and the world's hungry could be fed if 10% of the grain now given to animals were used for human consumption. We grow twice as much food on this planet each year as is necessary to give everyone an adequate diet, but we are obsessed with animal protein. In Britain we spend millions every year on slimming aids to avoid the consequences of over-eating - that cannot be right. We politicians talk about 'getting the balance right' - the balance of trade, of payments and so on - but there is another balance that is even more important, and that is the balance between material progress and spiritual values. Get that wrong and disaster will inevitably follow. We have got it wrong, and I look to the day when there will be a fairer distribution of the world's rich resources, and when the consumption of animal protein will be looked upon with horror!"

Lord Weatherill was Speaker of the House of Commons from 1983 to 1992.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the Vegetarian Society: www.vegsoc.org

See: Speaker calls in St Paul

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