Whether it’s the horrible conditions that plague animals in farms, concerns about the environment, or just the desire to stay fit and healthy—there’s a wide variety of great reasons why someone might choose to go vegetarian.
Vegetarianism is so common and accepted today that it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t very long ago that vegetarianism was a niche lifestyle that could actually be the subject of ridicule, or thought of as some exotic cultural choice.
A Growing Trend
Today, the majority of vegetarians come from countries where religious doctrine enforces the avoidance of meat, or countries where meat price and availability are prohibitive for the bulk of low-income families.
Of the approximately 1.4 billion vegetarians in the world, only 75 million actually make the active choice to live the vegetarian lifestyle.
But that number of voluntary vegetarians is growing all over the world.
In 2016, 7.8 million Germans, a good 10% of the population, were found to be vegetarian. That percentage is expected to double by 2020, to more than 20%.
In the Netherlands, the number of vegetarians grew from 560,000 in 2004 to 720,000 in 2006. Meanwhile, an increasingly large number of people are becoming ‘part-time vegetarians’ in that country.
And in Australia, a large vegetarian movement is growing. Events like ‘Vegetarian Week’ promote the lifestyle, while food producers are creating more and more meat substitutes and meat-free ingredients. In 2012, there were 1.7 million vegetarians, comprising 9.7% of the country’s population. In 2016, that figure rose to 2.1 million, or 11.2%.
Today, vegetarian restaurants and vegetarian diet plans are available almost anywhere, making it easier than ever to become part of the lifestyle. There are also even more extreme lifestyles such as raw vegan options if you truly want to devote yourself to the cause.
The Celebrities Who’ve Helped Promote Vegetarianism
From athletes, to fitness model influencers, to top actors, to great musicians; the spread of vegetarianism owes quite a bit to the celebs who’ve spread awareness and promoted its benefits over the years. Let’s take a look at some of these famous vegetarians and see how they’ve shaped the world perceptions of a plant-based lifestyle.
9. Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde is more than just a pretty face—she also has some pretty solid acting credits to her name, such as a role on House, and parts in blockbusters like In Time and Tron: Legacy. She’s even directed a very well-received film, Booksmart, set to be released this month.
But more than just her film and TV credits, she’s also known for her activist work. She’s campaigned for Obama, has been a very visible part of various women’s marches, and she even publicly espouses the vegetarian lifestyle. She won PETA's award for 2010’s Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity.
Known for hits like ‘Chandelier’ and ‘Cheap Thrills’, as well as collaborations with big artists like Rihanna and David Guetta, Sia has been vegan since at least 2014. She appeared in the vegan documentary Dominion alongside Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix.
7. Natalie Portman
Queen Amidala from Star Wars. Evey Hammond from V For Vendetta. The lead role of Nina Sayers in The Black Swan. Natalie Portman is one of Hollywood’s finest actresses and has the acting credits to show it.
But she’s more than an actor. She’s a psych grad from Harvard and is a co-author on a peer-reviewed scientific paper about neuroscience.
She also lives a partial vegan lifestyle thanks to the documentary Eating Animals. She even started a line of vegan shoes with Té Casan, though the venture failed due to the financial crisis.
6. Miley Cyrus
Every teen today, and virtually anyone who was a tween in the late 2000s knows who Miley Cyrus is, thanks to her role in Hannah Montana and her hugely popular music.
And because of her aggressive promotion of her personal views, everyone knows that she’s a vegan as well. She started the vegan lifestyle in 2014. Since then, she’s had vegan Thanksgiving, got a vegan wedding with Liam Hemsworth, and even launched a vegan collection with Converse.
5. Ariana Grande
With a Grammy, three AMAs, plus recognition as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people—there’s no denying it. Ariana Grande is one of the biggest names in pop.
All that reach and influence is a big help to the vegetarian community, as she publicly came out as a vegan in 2013. Speaking with Mirror in 2014, Ariana said, "I love animals more than I love most people, not kidding,” going on to say that as an Italian, she was raised on meat and cheese, so she’s probably had enough for one lifetime.
But her vegan journey hasn’t been without controversy. Back in March, she was revealed as the ambassador for Starbucks’ Cloud Macchiato drink. Unfortunately, the ‘cloud’ part of that drink can only be made with egg products – a big no-no for vegans.
4. Drew Barrymore
Child star turned superstar, and now TV star Drew Barrymore has had a complicated relationship with vegetarianism. She credits a huge 25-pound weight loss to the vegan diet – you wouldn’t recognise a before and after shot of her – and has previously been honoured by PETA for her cosmetics lineup. However, she seems to be an ex-vegetarian. Today, she does maintain a vegan diet before and during filming, but remains a meat eater throughout the rest of the year.
3. Ellen DeGeneres
Wildly popular talk show host Ellen DeGeneres has 61 Emmys and 17 People’s Choice Awards for her work on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It’s no surprise that the public eye is all over her views.
So when she said nearly a decade ago, “50 billion animals a year are killed and I think we all fool ourselves that there is some kind of happy cow and that it's a quick death, that they just hit him in the head and that they are out,” she started to spread awareness.
She became a vegan in 2008 after watching the documentary Earthlings. But later on, in her Netflix stand-up special Relatable, she said, “I’m not really vegan; I say it for the joke. I was vegan for eight years and I really believe that it’s great for you.”
She also came under fire for her comments during the promotion of Finding Dory, in which she starred as the titular character: “When we did Finding Nemo I was eating fish, and then I became a vegan for most of those years. And then I just started recently eating fish, [which was] retaliation for no sequel. I don’t eat blue tang, and I rarely eat fish. I don’t eat meat or anything, but I don’t really enjoy eating fish.”
2. Leonardo DiCaprio
As one of Hollywood’s most talented and bankable stars, Leo DiCaprio’s influence is profound. His vegetarianism is a very public part of his image, and he’s spent huge sums of money in support of vegetarian causes. He’s even a funder and executive producer in the big documentary anti-agriculture Cowspiracy, which he helped bring to Netflix.
1. Paul McCartney
As the singer and bassist of The Beatles, and a longtime collaborator with fellow bandmate John Lennon, Paul McCartney is one of the most successful artists of all time. With a net worth of $1.2 billion, vastly higher than many of today’s biggest celebrities.
He’s also one of the most devout, most active, and longest-running supporters of vegetarianism, having come out as a vegetarian in 1975, long before the practice became popular. He decided to stop eating meat after seeing lambs while eating a lamb meal. Since then, he’s been a huge animal rights supporter and has spent millions in support of various awareness campaigns, especially by PETA.