This week is National Vegetarian Week, which aims to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the production of meat; not just the treatment of the animals, but the health, financial and environmental implications. I am quite interested in cooking and so I follow quite a lot of chefs and food related social media profiles, many of whom have really thrown their weight behind the campaign this year. The constant appearance of the word Vegetarian on my Twitter feed in the last few days served as a reminder of a wonderfully inspirational woman and arguably one of the most famous vegetarians, at least in my lifetime – Linda McCartney.
Linda McCartney was a photographer, musician and animal rights activist who was married to Sir Paul McCartney. She was a successful woman in her own right before she met Sir Paul, being the first woman to have photographed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, shooting Eric Clapton in 1968. Appearing on the cover with Paul McCartney in 1974 then made her the first person to have photographed and be photographed for a cover of Rolling Stone. Since then, her photographs have been exhibited in more than 50 galleries worldwide, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. After the breakup of the Beatles in 1970, Paul McCartney taught Linda to play the keyboard and Linda later joined his band Wings, who enjoyed great success during the seventies.
It was in 1975 that Linda introduced her husband to vegetarianism and gave the explanation for her change of lifestyle as “I do not eat anything with a face… If slaughterhouses had glass walls the whole world would be vegetarian”. Linda promoted her lifestyle through the release of various vegetarian cookbooks and she and her husband became outspoken animal rights activists, lending their support to such organisations as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Friends of the Earth, to name but a few. In the early nineties, Linda founded the Linda McCartney Foods company, producing a line of frozen vegetarian meals which has since expanded to include meat free substitute items and fresh ranges and is still available under her name.
Linda and Paul had three children; Mary, Stella and James and Linda had one daughter Heather Louise from her previous marriage. Of course we all know Stella McCartney to be a fantastically talented British fashion designer. Linda is a great example of a woman who maintained her professional life in amongst her family life.
In 1995 Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer, which eventually worsened, spread to her liver and lead to her untimely death in 1998 and the age of 56. Even in sickness, Linda tried her best to remain true to her principles, finding it extremely difficult to accept that the drugs used in her cancer treatment may have been required by law to be tested on animals, in fact, Sir Paul suggested after her death that fans remember her by donating to breast cancer research charities that do not test on animals or simply “the best tribute – go veggie”. McCartney is also involved in a campaign called Meat Free Monday which encourages even non-vegetarian households to go veggie for one day per week.
It is this incredible legacy that Linda McCartney has left behind that makes her a hugely inspirational woman in my eyes, especially that she remained true to herself and her beliefs when she was suffering at her worst, and this is why I intend to honour her during National Vegetarian Week and endeavour to support Meat Free Monday and cruelty free medical drug testing campaigns.
By Louise Hayward