<br />A statement by Juliet Gellatley
Founder and director of Viva! and the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation
It was with great sadness that I heard of the separation of Paul and Heather, two people who have been loyal friends of both the organisations I represent. But it was with anger and disbelief that I read the outpourings of spite – almost hatred it seemed – towards Heather in so many newspapers, by journalists who don’t know her and most of whom have never even met her. They were clearly designed to diminish and hurt someone who deserves neither, at a time when her life is in obvious turmoil.
I have known Heather for some time and instinctively liked her on first meeting. I immediately recognised in her the unmistakable attributes of an experienced campaigner – passionate, dedicated, unbelievably energetic and caring – endlessly caring. It was these qualities which enabled her to work so successfully for disabled people and victims of land mines and I’m sure that the charity Adopt-a-Minefield was delighted when she became their patron – just as I was when she became a patron of Viva! and the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation.
One of the most laughable accusations made against Heather is that she is a self publicist. As far as I can see, she has no time for self publicity as her days are almost fully occupied with championing the causes of others – both human and non human. In just the last few weeks she has successfully focused attention of the slaughter of seals in Canada, achieved extraordinary publicity against the barbarically cruel fur trade and is championing the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundations’s anti-dairy campaign.
Her professionalism and dedication is typified by her insistence on attending the VVF’s White Lies press launch and public talk on May 24, in the middle of a media feeding frenzy – the last place on earth she would have chosen to be. She did it because she had agreed to do so and felt the important message that dairy is damaging the nation’s health might not be given the prominence it deserved if she failed to attend. That says as much about the media as it does Heather!
It seems that if you use your celebrity to posture and pout in front of the cameras, to fill your life with trivia and ephemera and flaunt your wealth to obscure your lack of talent, that is fine as far as some of the media is concerned. If, on the other hand, you use your position to try and eradicate disadvantage and focus attention on the appalling cruelty handed out to animals – cruelty that most people like to pretend doesn’t exist – then that is suspect and makes you fair game for attempted character assassination. If you are blunt, candid, dedicated, unafraid, challenging, brave, perceptive and utterly persistent – apparently all the things a woman isn’t meant to be – then you become even more of a target.
Since Heather has been associated with Viva! and the VVF she has never missed an opportunity to gain publicity for us and to give her time generously – and it has succeeded magnificently. Heather is not just a working class girl who made good, she is a working class girl who rose above an appalling upbringing to achieve great things – and she was going to be successful whatever she turned her hand to because she has all the qualities necessary. That, I believe, is something to applaud not denigrate. I am delighted that she has the love, admiration and support of her sisters and close friends to help her through these hard times. She certainly has mine.
When I read the spite directed at Heather I think of the night earlier this year when I attended a debate on fur at the Oxford Union with her. Knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words, when Heather was speaking she gave a prearranged signal to her sister Fiona who stood up, faced the audience and turned on the body TV which had been hidden under her coat. It showed a dog being skinned alive and its piercing screams of agony shrieked out into the hall and the tears rolled down Heather’s face. No matter how many times she sees or hears this footage, it tears her apart – and it has a similar effect on me.
Heather Mills McCartney cares and I wish to god there were more like her.
I have said little about Paul who must also be going through great stress and turmoil but as it is Heather who has been cast as the villain, I felt it important to set the record straight. Paul has been associated with Viva! from the very start (12 years ago) and I greatly cherish that, along with his warmth, friendship and encouragement. He has provided Viva! with some wonderful opportunities to promote itself over many years and I hope we will all continue to work towards achieving our shared goal – a kinder, more compassionate world where cruelty, pain and suffering are banished forever. I feel huge sorrow for Heather and Paul and hope that the media give them the respect and space they so obviously need at this difficult time.
Founder & Director of Viva! and the Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation
Home tel 01291 641701 Work 0117 944 1000<br /><a href="http://www.viva.org.uk/statement.html" target="_blank">www.viva.org.uk/statement.html</a>