Sunday sit-down with… Heather Mills
We caught up with the successful entrepreneur, charity campaigner and animal rights activist to find out more about her remarkable journey to success.
We can achieve anything if we set our minds to it. And the inspirational Heather Mills is living proof of this.
Heather has never let the loss of her leg in a police motorcycle accident get in her way. From opening her global, multi-award-winning vegan food company in the North East to campaigning for animal rights and amputee charities and becoming the fastest disabled woman on the planet – setting three new world records in the 2015 Winter Paralympics – Heather has gone on to achieve great things and, ultimately, has done her part in making the world a better place.
That’s why we thought we’d catch up with Heather, who now calls the North East home, to learn more about her remarkable journey to the top…
Congratulations on achieving three world records! How did you become a Paralympic ski racer?
I went to Austria on holiday with my girlfriend when the volcano erupted in Iceland. All the flights stopped, so I decided to jump on some skis as I hadn’t skied in decades. I was spotted by pure chance and was told I was really quite fast – even though this was largely because I didn’t know how to turn with one leg at the time! But, eventually, I worked my way up through the ranks and became a member of the British Paralympic team. I then went on to get the world record in ski jumping, skeleton and speed skiing at the age of 47.
Talk us through your work to support other amputees.
I found out on one of my early fittings that the prosthetic leg I’d had was redundant and the UK were not recycling used prosthetic limbs. So, I created an appeal, collected 27,000 limbs and asked Brixton Prison to be trained to dismantle them into components. I would drive them with my volunteers to the former Yugoslavia to be assembled and fitted to survivors of the war.
We then created Adopt-A-Minefield, which became the largest landmine clearing charity in the world – clearing over 21,000,000 m² of mindful land in nine countries and fitting up and assisting over 400,000 war survivors. Unfortunately, people like Murdoch and Piers Morgan destroyed the charities, making us unable to raise money publicly. But I still work quietly in that sector behind the scenes, now funding a lot of it myself. We have made a huge difference, but there’s still a lot more work to be done.
What inspired you to get involved with animal rights advocacy?
I became vegan in 1993 after losing my leg in a police motorcycle accident. I had no idea about animal cruelty and buried my head in the sand. The reason I became vegan was for health reasons – my girlfriend attributed her recovery from breast cancer to her plant-based diet and suggested it may help me heal, too.
Having had parts of my leg amputated three times, I didn’t want to keep having operations and lose my knee, so I tried veganism. Only then did I connect the animals in the field to the animals on my plate and I soon started to work with the most amazing animal charity, Viva.
I did everything I could to change laws in the EU and raise awareness around the world – especially when I found out that people were unknowingly wearing the fur of dogs and cats here in the UK and Europe, thinking it was faux fur.
What made you want to set up your own vegan ethical food company, V Bites?
Once I became vegan, I found it impossible to eat anything other than grilled vegetables or chips. So, I started to develop vegan burgers, dairy-free cheese and vegan fish in the ‘90s. We set up V Bites cafés as a non-profit to feed the community and take away the myth that vegan food was like cardboard!
After people made the mistake of voting for Brexit, many big corporates left the North East – leaving empty factories and many unemployed people here. That’s why I decided to purchase the factories and turn them into 100% plant-based facilities. Many of the competitors were manufacturing in mixed facilities, risking cross-contamination, and I knew this would be a huge issue going forward.
What makes V Bites stand out from the crowd?
I’m proud to say that we’re one of the originators of the plant-based movement – we’ve been doing this for over 28 years now. I believe we’re the only company that can produce meat-free, fish-free and dairy-free products (our new competitors generally do one or two max).
We wanted to cater to all tastes within the plant-based market. We’re also able to transfer our products between protein isolates. While most plant-based companies have a reliance on one ingredient – usually soy, pea or oat – we’re able to make products from all of these and many more. Because of this, we can buy local ingredients, such as rapeseed, sunflower and oats.
Tell us everything about your innovative V-Omega-3 Algal Oil?
Most people think omega-3 comes from fish; it doesn’t, it comes from the algae the fish eat. If you’re going to buy omega-3 capsules, it’s insane to buy the secondary source after billions of fish are squeezed into a capsule. It makes absolutely no sense when you can have the original source in V–Omega-3 Algal Oil.
It took me 12 years to develop this with the team. Most carnivores are lacking massively in omega-3, so it covers their requirements and minimises overfishing and devastating the sea. I went to great lengths to procure the most nutritional strain of algae for our customers.
What do you see as being your biggest achievement so far in life?
Having a family after four miscarriages and two ectopic pregnancies, as it was a complete miracle. I was told I could never have children.
I’m very proud of my landmine charity work too, as well as helping put a small group of like-minded people to get the world to go vegan behind-the-scenes. And my sporting records, which show you can be ‘old’ in sporting terms and still have great, vegan-fuelled protein muscles to beat everybody.
What do you love most about the North East?
The people are always ready to help, always have a friendly smile and a great sense of humour. They’re really hard-working, loyal, dedicated and committed.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been running multiple vegan businesses now and I’m delighted to see that the tide is turning in the global market and the appetite for these products is increasing – as this will ultimately benefit our future generations.
Hopefully, my companies can continue to play a pivotal role here and help me drive the change that I think we’re all beginning to agree needs to happen. I will keep trying to convince the big corporations that have the real power that they can make great money by creating environmental, healthier, animal-friendly food, as the domino effect will help every living being on the planet.
I would like to encourage our young to go into politics and make a difference and stick to it, and really get rid of the mouthpieces which are being ruled by the few in the world with so much power and money.
For more information about V Bites, visit Heather’s website.