Showing posts with label Manchester Evening News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manchester Evening News. Show all posts

Friday, 6 December 2013

Thanks to Craig Trafford

I would like to thank Craig Trafford for his kind words on today's Manchester Evening News Viewpoints page:

You can watch Wednesday's Full Council meeting online:

Monday, 17 June 2013

Meat-free day is good for you and the world

This is the unedited column I wrote for today's Manchester Evening News:

As you read today’s paper you may be having something to eat or thinking about your next meal. But have you thought about where that food comes from and the impact on the environment, your health and wallet? Your next meal will probably contain meat or fish. We think of that as normal, but we do eat far too much meat and fish in the UK and it’s having a huge impact on the environment; 18% of greenhouse gases come from meat production! Have you considered having a ‘Meat Free Monday?’

Vegetarian and Vegan diets have only a fraction of the carbon emissions of meat-based diets. The UN has said that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport. It also says meat production is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems. We can tackle climate change by simply eating less meat. If everyone in the UK gave up meat for one day we could save the equivalent in carbon emissions of taking 5 million cars off the road. The well respected Environmental Economist and former Government Advisor Lord Stern has suggested eating meat could become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving because of the impact it has on global warming.
The Liberal Democrat Chair of the Development Select Committee has said meat should become an occasional product rather than an everyday staple. He warned that it is pushing up food costs especially in developing nations and the need for pasture for cattle feed and ranching is fuelling deforestation. In fact meat production is responsible for 70% of the Amazon deforestation. Poorer countries are producing grain for animals rather than for the nourishment of their own people. Over the last 50 years the amount of meat produced has quadrupled while the global population has doubled; we can’t go on like this. If we continue to rely on the global meat market we run the real risk of food shortages in the future. Reducing our meat consumption would ease this.

There is an enormous amount of evidence to show that eating less meat is healthier and helps prevent disease. Oxford University showed that eating meat no more than three times a week could prevent 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer and 5,000 deaths from stroke, as well as saving the NHS £1.2 billion in costs each year. Eating some meat can be healthy but sadly we’re eating too much poor quality processed meat which is really bad for us. The meat we eat nowadays has been farmed on industrial scales and the nutritional benefits are reduced. A standard supermarket chicken now contains significantly less protein and more than twice as much fat as in 1970.

Eating less meat will save you money too. The average family spends about £13 a week on meat and fish but just £6.70 on fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. We’ve seen the cost of meat rise by 10% in just the last 6 years. A meat-free diet is significantly cheaper and is just as nutritious. In fact most people in the world live on a meat-free diet made up of cheap foods like rice, corn and beans.

Most of the meat we eat is farmed in intensive factory farms. 2.5 million animals are slaughtered every day to feed our country. These intensively reared animals are often in poor health because of the unnatural living conditions. By eating less meat we can show these animals compassion and stop their suffering. We are also wiping out fish stocks because of intensive overfishing. Some people think there may not be any wild fish in the oceans by 2050 if we do not stop overfishing and eating so much fish.

Last year I put forward a Council motion calling for Manchester City Council to acknowledge that it has a huge part to play in tackling Climate change and creating a sustainable green City. I suggested the Council can do this by removing meat from the menu in council catering and services one day a week. The Council has little authority to help residents become more ‘green’ if they are not promoting sustainability in everything they do. Sadly this proposal was thrown out by Labour Councillors; despite some having promised to support Meat Free Mondays in elections just a few months before. Manchester’s Lib Dem MP John Leech has taken the idea to Parliament and is calling for meat-free Mondays in all cafeterias in the Houses of Parliament.

The Council and Parliament should be leading from the front and showing that it really is very easy to give up meat for one day a week. We should encourage all schools, Council partners, and businesses in Manchester to follow suit so that we can change the culture towards meat and fish. We should also introduce clear standards so that food paid for by public money is compassionate to the environment and our health and reduces reliance on meat, dairy and fish. Having a ‘Meat Free Monday’ or meat-free day is not about everyone becoming vegetarian or restricting people’s choice but showing we can make huge positive difference on our own and as a society by slightly changing our habits.

For more information and meat-free recipes go to and

Friday, 1 March 2013

Viewpoints Column about Mersey Valley Wardens

This is the article I wrote for the Manchester Evening News earlier this week:

"In Manchester we are so lucky to have miles of open green space either side of the River Mersey. The Mersey Valley forms the lungs of south Manchester and allows hundreds of thousands of residents to enjoy nature on their doorstep; not to mention providing a haven for local wildlife. This has been made possible by the hard work of the Mersey Valley Wardens who manage the area for Manchester and Trafford Councils. Council cuts are putting these wardens and our ability to enjoy the valley under threat.

Manchester City Council is proposing to cut a massive 75% (or £150,000) from their contribution and Trafford are proposing to withdraw their £92,000 contribution entirely. If these cuts are accepted then it is very likely the Warden Service would be disbanded. In Manchester the proposal is to manage the vast open areas in Chorlton, Didsbury and Northenden as part of the Neighbourhood Teams which already look after Manchester parks. The Warden Service does a great job despite already being cut down to its bare bones over many years. We have seen the impact this has had such as a reduction of biodiversity in some areas. It’s worrying what damaging impact further cuts will have.

The Neighbourhood Teams do good work in urban parks, but they are not experienced in looking after countryside sites and they won’t be able to maintain the sites to levels people expect. The Wardens have built up decades of expert skills and knowledge to ensure people can safely and freely use the natural spaces in the valley and their specialist knowledge is required to manage the local biodiversity. For example the wardens have been critical in: maintaining nature reserves, providing education to members of the public and local schools, maintaining life saving equipment, working with local friends groups and managing flood risks. In Chorlton the wardens regularly assist a youth group by picking up canoes from Debdale Park and manning a safety boat which allows them to safely go out on the lake at Chorlton Water Park. Without this help these local young people would not be able to enjoy the valley in this way. The loss of the wardens would be a false economy. The valley provides huge enjoyment to those who use it and is vitally important for public health. It has enormous environmental value too by providing an area that wildlife and vegetation can flourish; helping us to tackle climate change.

Part of the Wardens’ responsibilities is to patrol the area and enforce laws and regulations. By removing the wardens there is a real threat of lawlessness. In the past the Mersey Valley has suffered from a variety of types of anti-social behaviour, including off-road motorbikes, fly-tipping, vandalism and attacks on birds and animals. It took a lot of work by the wardens and police to make the area safe for residents to enjoy (especially for families and children) and the proposals make no mention of how this will be maintained. Greater Manchester Police are unlikely to have resources to ensure the area is regularly patrolled and as result we could see a rise in crimes being committed in the valley which is bound to put people off using it.

I’m worried that Manchester Council are making a short sighted decision that could hurt this natural environment and our ability to enjoy it yet won’t save as much as predicted. If the Neighbourhood Teams take on the responsibilities the cost is still likely to be around £80,000. Once the Council realises all the statutory responsibilities it would be responsible for this could be significantly more. The Wardens’ expertise ensures the valley is managed in a cost-effective way.

There is strong opposition to the Councils’ proposals in the local area and residents are actively campaigning to save the wardens. My colleagues and I have handed in a petition of around a thousand signatures against the proposed cut and we are working to save the wardens. The Liberal Democrat alternative budget which was submitted last week includes proposals to retain funding for the Mersey Valley Warden Service. This means every single Manchester City Councillor will be given the opportunity to vote to save the Wardens when the budget is brought before full Council.

Please let your local Councillor know what you think about the proposals and how it will impact on you; and if you live in Manchester encourage them to vote to Save the Wardens!"