Friday, 11 February 2011

No red meat for Forest Green fans

I suspect I will not be the only blogger to be writing about this story today, but here goes:

Burger ban begins at Forest Green Rovers football club

Burgers and sausages have been banned from being sold to fans at Forest Green Rovers football club.

The move was introduced for players at the Blue Square Bet Premier club a few weeks ago but now the policy has been extended to the whole stadium.

What could possibly inspire this lurch towards health faddism?

The Gloucestershire club is owned by Dale Vince who is a vegan who runs green electricity company Ecotricity.

Say no more. Never let it be said that vegan eco-mentalists are the type to inflict their lifestyle choices upon the unwilling.

Free-range poultry and fish from sustainable stocks will continue to be served.

From which you might rightly infer that this is not just about hamburgers. There will be no sale of any red meat at the theatre of dreams that is Forest Green Rovers' football ground.

Communications director Tom Williams said: "Following discussions with the manager and on nutritional advice, it was decided to no longer feed our team red meat for health and performance reasons."

And how's that been working out for the players? Let's have a quick look at the league table...

Narrowly avoiding the drop in the nation's fifth division, Forest Green might want to get a second opinion on the nutritional advice they've been receiving. But since that advice has been coming less from "discussions with the manager" as from discussions with the club's tree-hugging chairman, a second opinion might be out of the question.

There are, of course, no "health and performance reasons" why football players shouldn't eat red meat and no Premiership manager enforces such a ban. So you have to ask who knows how to get the best out of their players—Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, or the owner of a club currently making up the numbers in the Blue Square league.

"[It has now been] decided that this policy should be extended to the stadium, at least in part as a further step in establishing ourselves as a "green" organisation.

Mr Vince added that "if red meat was not good enough to feed our players, then it wasn't good enough for our staff, fans and visitors too".

Firstly, red meat is good enough to feed the players. Secondly, there's nothing green about refusing to use livestock that has been bred locally in favour of fish that has brought back to land using dirty great trawlers. And thirdly, even if we leave aside the futile, faddish and scientifically unenlightened dietary regime inflicted on the bemused journeymen who make up the Forest Green Rovers team, the spectators are not playing the game. There is no requirement that people watching sport have to measure up to any standard of athleticism. What other form of entertainment demands the audience adopt the lifestyles of the performers?

This is exactly the sort of garbage we heard when football clubs started unilaterally banning smoking everywhere in their stadiums (including at the bar)—this ridiculous fantasy that everyone involved in the sporting spectacle has to stay fit and healthy. They don't, they aren't, and if they were they'd be playing it instead of watching it.

He said: "At its worst it means once every two weeks watching a football game without being able to eat red meat.

"Anybody that [sic] really needs it can bring a ham sandwich or something if they wish - that's no problem."

Well, it will be a problem for you, Mr Vince, if everyone does bring their own food—and I dearly hope they will—because it will lose you a source of revenue on match day. But then, as the owner of a "green electricity company" which can only be kept afloat with massive government subsidies, the workings of real-world economics may yet be a mystery to you.


subrosa said...

Isn't Ecocity the company which owns the Reading windmill Frank?

Angry Exile said...

Funny to hear Ecotricity's name pop up again so soon after I was ranting about their wind turbine (the one subrosa mentioned). Just shows how much money there is in all this Big Eco stuff - enough to buy a football team with, even if it's not a very good one and you don't want to feed it properly. Pity it's all built on money taken by force from taxpayers.

Carl V Phillips said...

Wow, that story is a great hodgepodge of clueless (venal or misguided -- not sure which) people with a hint of reasonableness that I would like to jump in and defend.

To add some extra emphasis to two of your points (topics I have done extensive research and writing on):

The current technology industrial wind turbines are not even close to eco-friendly. In addition to the issues that have been raised about their appearance and massacres of wildlife, and their devastating effect on local communities, particularly serious health effects (a lot of my work for the last year has been working for communities that are trying to keep wind turbines away from their residences because of the health effects), it is not even clear that they have much of a new positive effect in terms of resource use.

Also, it is definitely true that harvested or farmed fish (even if you avoid listed endangered species as best you can) are often more damaging, ecologically or in terms of resource use, than land based meat. And I am aware of no support for the claim about eating red meat affecting athletic performance in the short run, though eating a lot of meat contributes to health problems that occur later in life.

As for the owner refusing to sell products that she(?) considers unethical in her house, I kind of thought you might be on board with that, Chris. Is this not quite similar as something that I think you would support: Letting publicans decide if they want to allow or forbid smoking in their establishments? No one is forced to set foot in private establishments that ban smoking or refuse to sell beef (and can even bring their own food or step outside to smoke any time they want), so where is the problem? I do not make food that I consider unethical available at events that I am hosting.

And I will object in advance to the claimed contrast that it is ok to ban smoking somewhere because it affects others, while dietary choice is purely personal like religion or sexual preference and thus this is pure discrimination. Dietary choice (taken as a whole) has a much greater effect on innocent bystanders than smoking, and so restrictions can be justified (which is not to say that this means that restrictions *are* justified, of course, just that they are clearly different from banning gay people from somewhere).

There are, of course, tensions between someone's ethical beliefs and practical (economic) concerns. It might be a very bad idea to invite your boss to lunch and tell him you are not willing to pay for certain menu items if he orders them, or to alienate your customers, who might decide to no longer attend your matches or even route for your team. If someone did make such a choice, some of us would judge it to be an admirable show of principle -- being willing to take a personal hit because you believe in something so strong rather than just nattering at others about it, while others of us would judge it to be pointless martyrdom or rudeness.

Our immediate reactions about which of those it is tend to be a function of whether we agree with the motive (or at least sympathize). But it is worth stopping to think about the choice on its abstract merits (based on what some consider a defensible ethic, property rights, etc.). A good test is to consider that most of us would support someone who forbade (pretend they were legal) human slavery or dog fighting on her public-us private property (say, a rental property or private park), but object to someone who forbade Christians or gay people from entering. What makes those different, and which have characteristics more like smoking or selling animal foods?

Snowdon said...

I should make it clear that Mr Vince is free to sell whatever food he likes at his football ground and I would never try to stop him. I am not suggesting for a minute that any government action is required to force him to sell red meat. He's free to do it, just as I'm free to say that he's an unenlightened and intolerant individual and just as the supporters are free to boycott the club's snack bar in favour of the burger van that will no doubt be sat outside the ground.

This is not a libertarian issue. No one's rights are being impinged. I just think he's a being a self-righteous berk who is using his position to inflict his lifestyle on others. Free markets aren't perfect. There is no alternative football club in the town for people to turn to in protest, which gives Mr Vince a measure of power. He's using his monopoly position and the fans' loyalty for the purposes of mild social engineering. But that's just tough. The fans are no more forced to tolerate this than people are forced to go to a smoky pub.

I don't like his policy and I think a lot of Forest Green fans will dislike it too. But just because I don't like it doesn't mean I think the government should force him to change it. I know that this line of reasoning will seem utterly incomprehensible to 21st century politicians, but that's how I feel.

David C said...

Ecocity and its owners are repulsive parasites on ordinary people. The business of Government these says seems to be to encourage as many of these disgusting hangers-on as possible.
Vince's contempt for views other than his own is all too common amongst these bloodsuckers.