"You cannot be a vegan and a Tory."
These are the words I regularly hear from people when I tell them I am both. The truth is that you can and I am living proof of that. This view from both sides comes from a deep rooted mistrust of each other, vegans generally see Tories as pro-fox hunting, selfish, in it for the money, cold-hearted charlatans. Tories tend to see vegans as left wing, sandal-wearing, pious, lentil-eating, middle-class bores. Each side often vie for the right to offend the other the most.
The two, on paper, look like polar opposite views, so I do understand why people say it but actually when you dig a little deeper, being a vegan and a Tory isn't as incompatible as you might think.
Let me tell you more.
Let's start with the first seven letters of our party, CONSERV(E). Yes - to conserve, to keep, to not destroy. The Conservative party is the upholder of tradition and the conserving force of all that we hold dear; the planet being the one thing we all need to conserve, and that is where veganism comes in.
The number one change you can make in your life to help the environment is to go vegan. A plant based diet is regarded by experts as the best way to save the earth.
This often makes people feel uncomfortable, many people would still rather think that recycling plastic, not having the heating on or driving a low emission car is 'doing their bit' and will ultimately help to avoid the environmental catastrophe we are heading towards...it won't.
Yes, recycling and changes in lifestyle will help. But change to a vegan diet - we are in serious, save the earth territory. I am not going to heavily laden this article with facts, they are out there for everyone to read, but here are a few, and they are stark.
The world's appetite for meat means that from the rainforests in Brazil to the ancient pine forests of China, entire ecosystems are being destroyed to make way for animal grazing land. It is estimated that seven football fields worth of land is bulldozed every minute to create room for farmed animals.
Trees, the lungs of the planet are being destroyed and animal gases are producing more methane gas than ever.
Methane is thirty times more powerful at keeping the sun's heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that roughly 80 percent of ammonia emissions in the U.S. come from animal waste. A California study found that a single dairy cow emits 19.3 pounds of volatile organic compounds per year, making dairies the largest source of the smog-making gas, surpassing trucks and passenger cars.
Mass factory farms are polluting our soil and waterways as more and more manure and urine from animals is released into them. Each day, factory farms produce billions of pounds worth of manure, which ends up in our rivers, streams and even our drinking water.
A vegan diet only requires on average around 300 gallons per water a day, whereas the average meat eating diet requires as much as 4,000 gallons.
According to researchers at Oxford University, going vegan is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental footprint - they say by cutting out meat and diary, you can cut your carbon footprint by more than 73%.
There are hundreds more facts and a mass of data out there. This, however, is not about the data but more about how we as Conservatives should feel more affinity with a vegan lifestyle. As I said, it is in the name and it speaks to our sense of duty, to save the planet and to conserve our green and pleasant land.
It is also in the Conservative party's blood to embrace change and to adapt to make sure that we survive and continue to be relevant. We have been home to the Coalition, One Nation Conservatism, Disraelism, Thatcherism and now....Veganism.
This could be the biggest change we make...but it is also the right one for this country and ultimately the planet.
Councillor Paul Cropper, Deputy Group Leader of the Conservative Opposition on Bury Metropolitan Borough Council