Since actors have graced the silver screen, the public has prized and idolized celebrities. The adoration and infatuation the star-studded performers garner lends them an inherent power and endows them with the ability to dictate mainstream culture. While scandal and gossip seem to be the media’s take on the Hollywood ilk, there is a rising movement within the upper echelons of the fame-game to affect positive change and institute a greater awareness of ethical- and health-conscious living through veganism and animal advocacy.
Meat-Free and Living Healthy
Recently, two-term president Bill Clinton—a celebrity in his own right—was featured in AARP magazine, where he talked about the health benefits of eliminating animal products from his diet. In the past, Clinton suffered from heart disease and was forced to undergo quadruple bypass surgery. He understood that in order to live a longer and better quality life, he had to change his daily habits, starting with what was on his dinner plate. “I wanted to live to be a grandfather,” Clinton told AARP. “So I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival.” That diet was veganism. Today, Clinton regularly indulges in almond milk smoothies made with berries and protein powder, along with hummus and veggies. Even when Clinton visited South America, he was served an “unbelievable quinoa dish” when dining with the President of Peru and his wife.
Powerful politicians are not the only ones turning to veg living to bolster health. A slew of celebrities have made the choice to either cut down or cut out their meat intake to sustain or regain their physical well-being. In July, Denzel Washington told World Entertainment News Network that he decided to go vegetarian while performing on Broadway. “It just kind of woke me up to this idea of getting back to the basics in every way,” he told the news source, “and I made a commitment to just work harder and eat good.” Even though Washington noted that he does eat chicken occasionally, his attitude toward vegetarianism, along with other stars such as Hugh Jackman, Woody Harrelson, and Dax Sheperd (all who have considered or attempted to go veg in order to bolster their physical wellness), demonstrates a momentous shift in our culture’s perception of meat—from necessary source of protein to health hindrance. As these big names sit on the fence between veggie and omni, other red carpet regulars such as The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bailik, Russell Simmons, Casey Affleck, and Kristen Bell pave the way for the new cultural trend, promoting the hardcore veg-friendly lifestyles they’ve undertaken for a longer life and deep-seated ethics.
Lights, Camera, Advocacy!
Celebrity culture has long been perceived as a subset of society where flash bulbs and bright lights blind Hollywood’s inhabitants to real world problems, but this year, a multitude of stars proved the stereotype false by using their words and wallets to advocate for animals. Ellen DeGeneres pledged $25,000 to the Humane Society of the United States, Joaquin Phoenix starred in a PETA video to raise awareness about fishing, and Casey Affleck wrote a heartfelt letter to the Massachusetts legislature that urged state lawmakers to ban battery cages. Perhaps this year’s most notable noble crusader is behind-the-scenes player Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons and executive producer and writer for Cheers, The Drew Carey Show, and House of Cards. Simon, who was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, has donated his six-figure royalties to animal-welfare groups such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Sea Shepard Conservation Society, and his own Sam Simon Foundation, which rescues dogs from shelter and pairs them up with disabled people and veterans. “Veganism is an answer for almost every problem facing the world,” said Simon to The Hollywood Reporter.
Besides the usual cache of heartfelt hopefuls, there has also been an unprecedented amount of big name players not usually associated with the cruelty-free cause using their star power to help out our four-legged friends. Earlier this summer, Barbados-born singer Rihanna reportedly donated a large portion of her fortune to Wolf Haven, a sanctuary that works to protect the endangered Mexican wolf population. “Rihanna loves animals,” said one of her close friends to The Daily Mirror, “and she would love to be able to save her favorite creatures from extinction.” Also on the hip-hop front, Long Beach-local Snoop Dogg made it his mission as well to assist canines in need. Snoop teamed up with comedian Chelsea Handler and Canadian vocalist Michael Buble to fund the Dog for Dog food company, which fights euthanasia by generously donating dog food to shelters. According to Snoop, the supplemental sustenance allows animal shelters to save money and resources, which they can then use to keep more dogs alive.
A Hunk of Compassion
Some of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs of today and yesterday are also getting involved, leading activist efforts to fight against what is arguably the biggest threat to animals—the agriculture industry. This April, swoon-worthy Ryan Gosling wrote a letter to the President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, requesting that his organization help stop the painful farming practice of dehorning livestock. In July, he also penned a piece for the Ontario-based Globe and Mail titled “A Tiny Cage is Not a Life,” which spoke out against a loophole in Canada’s recently-passed gestation crate ban that allowed farmers to keep pigs in the confining cages for up to five weeks. In his article, Gosling paralleled the pigs to his beloved dog George, noting the animals’ intelligence: “These animals also deserve our care and attention. That’s why I was so heartened to learn that Canada is taking steps toward improving the treatment of animals in the food supply.”
Also in July, Robert Redford, a Hollywood legend who starred in films like All the President’s Men and the original Great Gatsby, stepped away from the camera to join the activist groups Front Range Equine Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States to protest the reinstatement of horse slaughter in the United States. “Horse slaughter has no place in our culture,” said Redford. “It is cruel, inhumane, and perpetuates abuse and neglect of these beloved animals. We must oppose it with all of our might.”
The overwhelming influence of celebrities and their ability to affect change cannot be understated, but it is important to note that these contemporary icons are also reflections of our culture, and judging their actions and words is the best way take the pulse of the American people. The recent onset of veganism and cruelty-free advocacy among Bill Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Chelsea Handler, and Ryan Gosling, shows that society sees animal welfare as a pertinent issue, and even though we have much work to do to improve the lives of cats, cattle, pups, and pigs everywhere, we are headed in the right direction.