The Other Mr Ramsay | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

The Other Mr Ramsay

The Other Mr Ramsay

I was weaned on politics and impassioned debate. Not surprising, really, as I was the product of an Irish, Catholic mother and a communist, atheist father. But there was a constant drip feed of concern that we should do all we can to end injustice and make the world a better place. It led me to demos such as Aldermaston and to becoming a union rep, and is one reason why I’ve thrown my lot in with Viva!. It didn’t, though, push me into politics. Positive politics I would sooner push red-hot needles through my earlobes than endure endless, circular debates with the local butcher and baker on the licensing committee, regulatory committee, scrutiny committee, constitution working party committee and so on – all a vital part of political growth. Adrian Ramsay, deputy leader of the Green Party, has no politics in his background but has sat on all of these committees.

He swats away my cynicism: “It’s not like that in Norwich. Our committee members all work for the greater good and there’s a desire to actually achieve something.” That’s put me in my place! And achieve something they have, with a ban on animal circuses, a ban on live bait for anglers, no goldfish as prizes at fairs, a special toad crossing, protecting green spaces against encroachment and, of course, wholehearted support for Viva!’s campaign to make Britain foie gras -free. Impressive story Adrian was born and bred in Norwich and attended the University of East Anglia (a first in politics, of course). He’s a local boy through and through. I’m not easily impressed but I find the story of his political blossoming slightly mind-boggling – and animal suffering was the spur. He wanted to save animals and went vegetarian at the age of 13 after discovering the barbarity of factory farming.

By the age of 16 he had formulated his plan and even though he wasn’t old enough to run for office, decided to woo a particular Norwich ward by door knocking around its streets. And this is the extraordinary thing – he kept it up for three years! Does that make him weird, obsessed, maybe a bit of an anorak? Not a bit of it. Sustainable plans Adrian is a handsome, smart, personable man, now 28, engaging and patently committed to a different and sustainable way of running the country. What a breath of fresh air compared to a Labour Party that acts like a bad Tory Party and a Tory Party that tries unconvincingly to pretend it’s a Labour Party. Think back to ex Conservative prime minister Harold McMillan’s scathing criticism of Mrs Thatcher’s privatisation policy. Selling off publicly owned industries was, he said, like selling off the family jewels. Now, all three big parties support the flogging-off of publicly owned assets.

Here’s a test! Who owns Britain’s energy supply and distribution? You get 10 house points and extra pudding if you can even name the countries. Despite the crucial importance of dwindling energy supplies there is no party that intends to reclaim these vital supplies from foreign hands – except for the Green Party, that is! But I digress. After having prepared the ground in Norwich Nelson ward, Adrian stood for the local council as soon as he hit the required age of 21. He was elected in 2003 with 50 per cent of the vote to become one of the youngest councillors in the country. In 2007 he ratcheted up his vote to 63 per cent.

Wow – he’s doing something right! Going vegan Along the way, Adrian had received a leaflet on the dairy industry and the whole disgusting process clearly shocked him. The forcible impregnation of cows, removing their calves after birth, and shooting the males or sending them off to the obscenity of continental veal farms all had a sobering effect on him and he became vegan. “That, for me, is one of the most overriding images of modern animal farming. If there is one thing that makes me want to work to end animal suffering and make this world more humane, it’s remembering those images. “When I first found out about factory farming I wanted to make a difference and it seemed that only the Green Party offered me a way to do that. It was daunting at first, going round from door to door talking about these issues, but I was motivated and encouraged by the fact that I was working to make things happen – and I still am. Interestingly, I’ve been a vegan longer than I’ve been a member of the Green Party.” Rising success With the leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, being vegetarian and the deputy leader being vegan, do people on the doorstep dismiss them as the ‘veggie party’? Adrian racks his brain before saying he can’t think of an occasion when that’s happened. Maybe not, but I’ve no doubt the media will have a go as the party grows.

Most politicians tend to pause and consider before answering a question, never gabble and speak in measured tones as if everything they’ve ever said or might say has to be weighed against what they’re saying now. And, of course, it does because just one contradiction will come back to bite you on the backside. Adrian Ramsay has already developed this habit, which is just as well because he’s going head to head in Norwich South with one of Labour’s big beasts, ex-home secretary Charles Clarke MP, at the next general election.

He has a very good chance of succeeding and becoming one of the UK’s first Green MPs, along with MEP Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion. Adrian has got a lot on his plate so I ask this comprehensive-educated high-flyer what he does for relaxation and there’s a pause. I can almost hear the guilt: “Yes, perhaps I should get out and about more! I love the natural world and open spaces and go to Hillside Animal Sanctuary when I can (at Frettenham, near Norwich, and an old friend of Viva!). My partner Jenny works for the RSPB on the Broads and I go there whenever I can because it’s just so beautiful.” Jenny, perhaps unsurprisingly, is on the County Council.

Green policy The three main parties in British politics have scrambled over each other to command the centre ground to such a degree that you can barely squeeze a Rizla paper between their policies. I won’t go through the Green Party’s manifesto (http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/) but believe me it’s different. Here’s a few of the Greens’ policies on animals. Vivisection would go as would any painful research and there would be no live exports. Animal circuses and fur would be banned as would the import of exotic species for the pet trade; all blood sports would go, as would zoos, unless they operate a genuine release into the wild scheme or are sanctuaries. But what about the huge industry that is factory farming? “It’s interesting looking at the way kids interact with animals – they draw no distinction between so-called pets and the animals killed for food. They love them all. It’s extremely sad that adults treat different animals in different ways even though we claim to be a nation of animal lovers. With farmed animals most simply don’t think about them at all. “Factory farming has to go and the Greens’ approach to the economy is to encourage healthy eating, which is also the way to reduce the epidemics of disease that are crippling the health service.”

Anyone who reads my features will know I have an overpowering belief that over consumption is destroying the Earth. Does Adrian Ramsay share my belief? “It should not be about consumption, with people working longer and longer hours, but about the quality of life. The main parties ignore the real human costs of cheap imports that the West buy-in to feed its consumer culture. “We understand that those cheap goods are manufactured at a cost of health and human rights, they are shipped at an environmental cost to future generations, they are traded at a cost to sustainable local economies at both ends and they don’t disappear when they are put in the bin. “We’re told it’s cheaper to buy new, but that’s not true. Products are not disposable, people are not disposable, the planet is not disposable. The throw-away society has had it’s day and it’s time to throw it away.” Can I take that as a yes?

The usual reason for not voting for the Greens or the other smaller parties is that it’s a wasted vote. Hmmmm!

So a vote for the bigger parties isn’t a wasted vote? tony@viva.org.uk www.tonywardle.co.uk