When Manchester United legend and current first team coach Phil Neville takes to the pitch in this summer’s Class of ‘92 friendly against Salford City, his energy may be even higher than it was when he helped lead the Red Devils to the Premier League trophy six times – and as he reveals in a brand-new video interview with PETA, that’s because he decided to go vegetarian.

Video: Phil Neville: Why I Gave Meat the Red Card

In the interview, Neville credits his wife’s influence with prompting the switch. “My wife’s been vegetarian for about four, five years now”, he says. “I promised my wife that I would try it for two weeks. … I started to feel healthier, leaner. I started to feel great!” And he knows that athletes can get all the nutrition they need, including protein, from plant-based foods such as quinoa, seeds, soya protein and nuts. “It’s made me feel better”, he says. “And I read studies – I hope it makes me live longer.”

Neville recognises that he is part of a growing movement towards plant-based diets as society learns more about the health risks associated with meat-rich diets, the damage that animal agriculture has on the environment and the suffering endured by animals raised and killed for their flesh. “I think people are understanding the benefits, not just for yourself but for … the environment”, he says. “2.5 million animals a day are being slaughtered. That is a damning statistic that we need to do something about.” And it’s easy to do something – as Neville says, “If everyone can even just do one day of not eating meat, then that … will mean that we live in a better world.”

Neville joins a growing list of top “no-meat athletes”, including boxer David Haye, Olympic cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, strongman competitor Patrik Baboumian, squash world champion James Willstrop and ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll.

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