The reputation of vegans in our omnivorous society is sketchy at best. For many meat lovers, even vegetarians are considered dangerously subversive, so the idea of going, as it were, the whole hog, dropping dairy and eggs and consuming an entirely plant-based diet – well, you might as well suggest living off of rainwater and acorns. It’s that absurd.
But if you’re one of those people who thinks tofu is “lesbian meat” (not my words), or that the best use for hummus is to plaster a wall, you might be surprised to learn that more and more people are opting for the vegan lifestyle, for reasons moral, environmental and medical – and they don’t all have beards. So take a look at the five people below; some you’ll have heard of, some you won’t. They’re not all necessarily advertisements for the lifestyle – but that’s not the point. They’ve all been included simply because, unlike Steve Jobs, Thom Yorke or Benjamin Zephaniah, people are usually surprised to learn that, despite the lack of braided hair, hemp bags and not a sandal in sight, they’re all animal-free.
Jim Morris, Retired Body Builder
Okay, so I said not everyone in this list is an advertisement for veganism. But with his perfect physique, list of bodybuilding titles and zest for life, Jim Morris certainly is. He’s been vegetarian since 1985, and vegan since 2000. Gaining all the protein he needs from fruits, vegetables and beans, Morris’s achievement is even more outstanding when you realise that he was born in 1935, the same year as two other pillars of healthy living, Elvis Presley and Luciano Pavarotti. Heck, that’s two years before Jack Nicholson, who these days looks like dough in a condom. And, if you ever needed a more masculine bitch-slap of a reason to drop the dairy, look no further than Mr Morris, who can look into your puny, guilty soul and tell you “milk is for babies.”
Alec Baldwin, Actor
I know right? Alec Baldwin. The insanely enthusiastic guy Phoebe dated in Friends. The guy Julia Roberts was with when Hugh Laurie fell in love with her in Notting Hill. Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock. But despite his comedic reputation, Baldwin is a very serious vegan and supporter of animal rights. He narrated PETA’s educational video “Meet Your Meat”, and has donated large sums to numerous animal shelters. “Every time [we’re] sitting at a dining table,” Baldwin tells us, “we make a choice. Please choose vegetarianism.”
Pamela Anderson, Actress
Although she’s probably the most famously vegan vegan on this list, the former Baywatch star’s diet is still a shock to many people. Perhaps it’s because, with her breast implant surgery, topless modelling career and sex tape scandals, Anderson is so rigorously sexualised in the public eye that for many people she loses a sense of autonomy. But she is a very outspoken animal rights activist, taking part in PETA’s “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign and receiving the first Linda McCartney Memorial award for animal right protectors. KFC, Canadian seal hunters and numerous animal testing facilities have all been targeted by Anderson’s influential gaze, and the prodigious vegan shows no sign of stopping.
Mike Tyson, Retired Boxer
For many vegans, the moral arguments for avoiding animal-based products are the selling point. But, despite this hilarious photograph (is it me or does the dove look terrified?), Mike Tyson adopted veganism predominantly for health reasons. After hitting bottom in 2009 following the death of his daughter, the drug addicted former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world spend two years living “paycheck to paycheck”. In 2011, Tyson revealed he was now sober and had gone vegan as part of his rehabilitation on Ellen Degeneres’ show (also, incidentally, a vegan.) It turns out the bit about being sober was a lie, sadly. Whilst the convicted rapist is not, for many people, veganism’s proudest convert, the physical transformation Tyson underwent following his diet change is objectively quite remarkable.
Matthew O’Callaghan, Chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association
Okay, so strictly speaking Matthew O’Callaghan is a vegetarian, not a vegan. But I had to include him, because if we’re talking about breaking stereotypes, being the chairman of a group of meat-based pie lovers is possibly as unexpected as you can get. He blames it all on a particularly bad experience in Bangkok: “I had a really serious bout of food poisoning and was rather ill. It has put me off meat for life, I’m afraid.” One has to wonder how he gets out of bed every morning.