Veganism has now established itself as a mainstream eating philosophy after gaining traction in recent years. The practice was once viewed as a fringe movement, with vegans having to visit health food stores to do their grocery shopping.
The number of vegans in the UK quadrupled between 2014 and 2019, and last year there were 600,000 recorded vegans. The number is expected to continue rising exponentially, forecasted to make up a quarter of the British population by 2025.
Vegans cite a number of reasons for changing their eating and lifestyle habits, including:
- Animal welfare, the value most associated with veganism
- Environmental factors like a reduction in greenhouse gases
- Health reasons – veganism helps reduce the risk of dying from heart disease
The uptake of veganism correlates with our improving health in the UK. We’re exercising more and making sure we’re getting the right vitamin intake through eating the right foods. The popularity of veganism has garnered so much attention, including from businesses – once, a vegan meal would’ve consisted of a jacket potato and beans. Now, the options are limitless, with jackfruit burgers and vegan sausage rolls.
The biggest voices in the veganism space at the moment are celebrities. Our society places emphasis on the influence of those in the limelight, following trends from celebrities whether it’s fitness, fashion, or dietary preferences. The most famous couple on the planet, David and Victoria Beckham, recently announced their switch to veganism.
Below are some of the most influential celebrities in the vegan space.
James Cameron ignites the veganism conversation
In 2019, leading filmmaker James Cameron teamed up with Netflix to release The Game Changers, an exposé on meat marketing and vegan diets which is now the top-selling documentary of all time. As a long-time environmental advocate, Cameron went vegan in 2011 to lower his carbon footprint while also finding that his health improved, too.
Flipping traditional science and marketing on its head, the documentary focused on the impact a plant-based diet could have on health and fitness. Where previous documentaries have targeted the ethics and emotions of animal lovers and environmentalists, The Game Changers flips the script and targets a different demographic — health-conscious consumers and athletes. The documentary reports that meat, fish, eggs, and dairy can hinder athletic performance, damage our hearts, impair sexual function and shorten our life span.
The documentary highlighted the flawed marketing message that eating meat is manly and, as a result, encouraged men to become ‘plant-curious’ and health-conscious. Iconic and inspirational athletes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, medical professionals such as the former president of the American College of Cardiology Dr Kim Williams, and founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute Dr Dean Ornish explain their reasons for going vegan and how this has legitimately improved their lives.
Damian Soong, who co-founded a plant-based protein provider, credits The Game Changers and predecessor documentaries for the shift in attitudes towards veganism. “There is now a greater acceptance and awareness of climate change, and the impact of industrial farming, and the press around meat means it’s very much in the public consciousness,” he argues.
Peter Jackson also joined forces with Cameron to increase vegan options in New Zealand. They helped ease the pressure on the country’s in-demand farming industry by using alfalfa to create a plant-based protein source.
Multiple celebrities invest in bacon alternative
In response to a survey that found meat-eaters would miss bacon more than anything else if they went vegan, plant-based brand Outstanding Foods came up with a solution. A plant-based alternative to pork rinds, PigOut Pigless Pork Rinds are made with mushrooms, sunflower oil, sea salt and other vegan components. The snack has received backing from a list of celebrities including Snoop Dogg, Jared Followill, Alexandra Paul, Emily Deschanel, Cesar Milan, Dierks Bentley and Alan Cumming.
PigOut is a healthier alternative to bacon and mimics the meat’s crispy texture and salty flavour. It’s not only marketed to vegans but also vegetarians and ‘flexitarians’; generally health-conscious young people who aren’t vegan but have meat-free days to cut down on their consumption.
Arguably the biggest name in the celebrity list, Snoop Dogg put Outstanding Foods in the spotlight. The company described his involvement as “a new era for the brand”, with the rapper launching a dedicated website to sell the snack.
Snoop Dogg collaborates on vegetarian burger
Though not a vegan, Snoop Dogg is a big advocate for plant-based meat alternatives and has also invested in Beyond Meat, a vegan burger producer.
The rapper helped to revive the company’s share prices, which dipped in 2017. Beyond Meat collaborated with Dunkin’ Donuts to create the eye-catching Beyond D-O-Double G Sandwich — a Beyond Meat patty on a layer of egg, American cheese, sandwiched in a glazed doughnut, which resulted in the company’s share price rising by more than 20 per cent. Although this burger is vegetarian rather than vegan, it shows how celebrity endorsement can pave the way for a meat-free world and help provide a meat-free alternative for flexitarians looking to cut down, just like Snoop. More meat-free burgers for us!
Veganism dominates the Oscars
Veganism was also a hot topic at the 2020 Oscars. When accepting his award for Best Actor, multi-award-winning Joaquin Phoenix used his moment on stage to address inequalities in the world, including animal welfare.
In a passionate address to Hollywood and the world, he said: “I think we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world. We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth, we steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. And then we take her milk that’s intended for the calf and we put it in our coffee and cereal.”
Phoenix also used his speech at the Golden Globes to praise the producers for serving an entirely vegan menu at the ceremony. While Phoenix does not own or explicitly associate himself with a particular vegan brand, his actions show that organisations can be persuaded to take positions on animal welfare and opt for friendlier and more sustainable food options.