Growing up in Liverpool, I would have thought of a vegetarian as a wimp. We could be a prejudiced bunch at times but I'm not sure people would automatically think like that these days.
I've been a vegetarian for a long time now and over the years I've seen how the attitudes have changed around the world, so I'm not surprised when I see new research that shows more and more people are increasingly adopting 'meat free eating'. Even 20 years ago, it could sometimes be difficult to find vegetarian options in good restaurants. Now it's great to see more and more choice with some brilliant creative dishes in restaurants, cafés and supermarkets. There is definitely now an overall greater acceptance of being vegetarian.
Linda played a massive part in all this. Over the years, she converted many people we knew. Our friends, people we worked with and even some of our roadies on tour. She had a non-aggressive forcefulness about her. We dreamed that one day you could be driving down the motorway and stop off for some food and there would be options for us and now of course there are. When Linda originally brought out her range she was pioneering. It kick-started a revolution of choice in the food industry. Over the years we saw more and more products being added to the market but instead of being a competitive business woman Linda thought this was great. The more the better.
People don't just see it as an issue about kindness to animals. For us, at the time it was about that. One day I had an epiphany. I was taking animals' lives. These days though, people are better educated about their diets and the health benefits of reducing meat intake but also and crucially the environmental impact that meat production has on our planet. The UN actually produced a report in 2006 (Livestock's Long Shadow) outlining how the livestock industry was responsible for more harmful gases than the transport industry - they said the best thing you can do is reduce your meat intake. For this campaign some interesting research was produced, predicting a 50% rise in vegetarianism in the UK and the idea of 'flexitarianism' becoming more widespread as people become educated about the impact of meat eating on health and the environment. It's becoming more and more clear that one of the most effective things any individual can do to help the environment is to eat less meat.
We launched a Meat Free Monday campaign in 2009 in order to encourage people to look at their diets and make a meaningful change by giving up meat just one day a week. It's not a new idea; it's something that is done in many places around the world. We thought Monday was a good day to do it as many people tend to overdo it at the weekend. People thought recycling was a bit weird at first but now it's weird if you don't recycle!
Over the years Linda's food company has continued to grow from strength to strength. Recently, new chilled ranges were launched in all the major supermarkets and sales continue to rise. We felt now was a good time to launch a national ad campaign to remind people. We wanted to create something really special. Something that really captured the spirit of Linda and what she loved and what she was all about. We worked with the guys at Passion Pictures (I knew them through their work for Beatles Rockband), my son-in-law Simon Aboud worked as the creative director for the project and the kids were all involved too, so it's a family affair. I love the animation and the way we are portrayed as different characters, especially the way some of us are given quirky animal personas. I think she would have highly approved of this, as it shows her looking after her family and all the animals at the same time.
Linda would also have loved the woodland setting and creative detail of the animation, which I think is just beautiful. It's got a classic, timeless feel, which is hopefully reflected by the new recording I did of my song Heart of the Country. The countryside is at the heart of this project, so it felt like the right fit. We were also lucky enough to get Elvis Costello to do the voiceover. He is an old family friend and someone who knew Linda well.
The ad will air from 28 January and will be on TV through February and March. Myself and the whole family are all really proud of it, and we think Linda would be too. Linda's values and ethos from 40 years ago are finally being adopted by many people. We are committed to supporting her vision and ensuring that we play a central role in shaping a healthy future for vegetarianism and meat-free living.
Check it out for yourself: