Veganism seems like a new social development—humans have always eaten meat, right? Not so much: many religions, particularly religions from India, have been encouraging vegetarian and vegan living for centuries. Jainism, a sect of Hinduism, forbids the eating of any animals, and its followers wear masks to prevent inhaling insects; they believe any living creature may have been someone they knew in a past life. But veganism is just catching on the West, where eating meat has long been considered a sign of success. People choose veganism for health reasons, as well as ethical reasons; it is a great way to lose weight, have more energy, and withdraw your consumer support from factory farming. Some celebrities are vegan, but you might know it—read on for ten famous vegans.
1. Bill Clinton
This former U.S. President became a vegan in 2010, for health reasons. Clinton had quadruple bypass surgery in 2004, followed by stent surgery. And this is despite his fairly public practice of running every morning of his presidency. Since becoming vegan, Clinton has dropped twenty pounds and become a voice for vegan and vegetarian diets. He told CNN, “I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now. I also have, believe it or not, more energy.”
2. Ellen DeGeneres
One of the more vocal advocates for the diet, Ellen has been a vegan since 2008. On her choice to go vegan, the talk show host told Katie Couric, “I do it because I love animals. And I saw the reality and I just couldn’t ignore it anymore.” Ellen’s wife, the actress Portia de Rossi, is also a vegan; their wedding in 2008 had a vegan menu, and they plan to open a vegan restaurant together. Besides all this, Ellen also keeps up a vegan blog, “Going Vegan With Ellen”.
3. Mike Tyson
This celebrity is probably the least expected: Mike Tyson went vegan in 2010, and promptly lost one hundred pounds. Despite being a heavyweight boxing champ, Tyson had become seriously unhealthy. Earlier in 2015, Tyson said, “Becoming a vegan gave me another opportunity to live a healthy life. I was so congested from all the drugs and bad cocaine, I could hardly breathe, [I had] high blood pressure, [was] almost dying [and had] arthritis. And once I became a vegan all that stuff diminished.”
4. Natalie Portman
After many years as a vegetarian, this actress became a vegan in 2009. She made the change after reading up on the cost of factory farming, and wrote this about it on her blog: “The human cost of factory farming—both the compromised welfare of slaughterhouse workers and, even more, the environmental effects of the mass production of animals—is staggering.” Portman’s wedding in 2012 featured all vegan foods.
Usher’s father died of a heart attack in 2008; the singer-songwriter is committed to staying healthy, and caring for his own two boys. Usher became a vegan in 2012, and apparently tried to get his young protégé, Justin Bieber, to go vegan too—but Bieber didn’t “beliebe,” and gave it up (according to RadarOnline).
6. Woody Harrelson
A vegan for more than twenty-five years, this actor chose the diet for health reasons too. He told Esquire magazine this story about his early years as an aspiring actor in New York: “I was on a bus and some girl sees me blowing my nose. I had acne all over my face, which I’d had for years and years. And she’s like: ‘Hey, you’re lactose intolerant. If you quit dairy, all these symptoms you got will be gone in three days.’ I was like twenty-four. And I was like, No way. But three days later: gone.” In addition to eating vegan, Harrelson lives on an organic farm in Maui and stays away from cell phones, because of their electromagnetic waves. He’s also co-owner of a vegan restaurant and an organic beer garden.
7. Alicia Silverstone
Although she’s best known for starring in “Clueless,” Alicia Silverstone has had a second career since the movie, as an advocate for veganism. She went vegan at 21, more than fifteen years ago (says Health Magazine), for health reasons. She told Oprah that before going vegan she suffered from asthma, acne, insomnia, puffy eyes and constipation, all of which later subsided. Silverstone wrote a book on vegan foods in 2009 (The Kind Diet), and runs a vegan themed website, The Kind Life.
8. Carl Lewis
Carl Lewis, an Olympic gold medalist in track and field, has been vegan for a long time too. He turned vegan in 1991, ahead of the World Championships; Lewis said it was the best race of his life. Later that year he set a world record and won ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year.
9. Joaquin Phoenix
An award-winning actor, Joaquin Phoenix has been a vegan since age three. He told the New York Daily News this story about his childhood, “My family and I were on a boat, catching fish … The animal went from a living, vibrant creature fighting for life to a violent death. I recognized it, as did my brothers and sisters.” Phoenix is closely aligned with PETA, and helped to develop a video for PETA’s “Go Vegan” campaign, with a drowning fish—despite Phoenix and PETA’s requests, ABC refused to air the commercial during the Academy Awards (according to Business Insider).