Plant-based pop: the vegan musicians choosing a meat-free way of life

Beware of celebrities waving their vegan credentials like a badge of honour… they come in many guises. 

For some, like dedicated animal rights campaigner Paul McCartney, the decision is ethical. For others, embracing a plant-based diet is more about nutrition and the perceived health benefits of eating meat-free. Then there are those who jump on the vegan bandwagon, take a trip around the block only to hop off quietly at the nearest KFC. (Although even the finger lick-in’ Colonel now has a vegan option… courtesy, some say, of the East Coast Doggfather and Beyond Meat ambassador, Snoop Dogg.)

So we went in search of those influential artists who are fully paid-up members of the V-Gang. Or in the case of one vegan wrecking ball, one who has had her gold star membership permanently revoked. Let’s start with Miley. 

Miley Cyrus (membership revoked) 

“Be the voice of those who can’t say …..’stop.’ Who can’t say ‘that hurts.’ Who can’t say ‘I’m so afraid to die.’ Be the voice of the animals!”

Former vegan poster girl Miley Cyrus deserves a whole category of her very own. Miley made veganisim her USP, ramming her plant-based credentials down our throats with an almost missionary zeal. She once said she’d “eat dirt before an animal“,  only to abandon her principles in spectacular fashion, citing “health reasons”. It’s OK though, she apparently cried while eating her first barbecued fishy having clearly forgotten that “fish are friends not food”. Vegan activist Earthling Ed, with his characteristic grace and quiet intellect, produced the perfect take down which is a must view for anyone worrying about the health implications of a vegan diet.

Sir Paul McCartney

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarian”. 

Paul McCartney has been a powerful,  passionate campaigner for animal rights for over forty years. In this disturbing video made for PETA, he explains and exposes the hidden cruelty and violence perpetuated behind these closed doors.

Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish
Photo by Erika Goldring/FilmMagic

“I love animals and I just think there’s no point in creating something out of an animal when the animal is already there. Leave animals alone.”

Billie Eilish was raised a vegetarian and now follows a vegan diet. She is a regular advocate for animal rights and in 2019 won a PETA ‘Best Voice for Animals’ award. Her mum recently launched a charity delivering plant-based meals to frontline workers during the pandemic, so compassion and activism clearly runs in the family.

Her recent ‘Where Do We Go? The Livestream’ concert, had messages for fans to “eat plant-based like Billie” before the performance.

Morrissey

“I see no difference between eating animals and paedophilia,” he said. “They are both rape, violence, murder. If I’m introduced to anyone who eats beings, I walk away.”

Hmmm. Morrissey’s toxic right wing rhetoric may have cost him many disillusioned followers, however the influence The Smiths had in turning a generation on to the issues of meat consumption is undeniable… apart from Robert Smith frontman of The Cure who, during a long running beef with Morrissey, once said: “If Morrissey says not to eat meat, then I’m going to eat meat; that’s how much I hate Morrissey.”

Johnny Marr

“I am very proud of the fact that 20 years on people tell me that they became a vegetarian as a result of Meat is Murder. I think that is quite literally rock music changing someone’s life — it’s certainly changing the life of animals.” 

Having moved from vegetarian to vegan in 2006, Marr is still struggling with one thing: the apparent omnipresence of cucumbers which he finds to be “demonic” and “the black hole of the food world”.

JME, Boy Better Know

“One thing that stands out to me is that veganism is normal. When I went vegan, it was… a thing. Now, veganism is just normal. It’s easier to exist, which is good. It was scary when it was a thing.”

In 2015 JME starred as himself in Simon Amstell’s film Carnage, set in a utopian vegan future. While JME may have unwittingly become Britain’s coolest vegan ambassador, you get a sense that he is glad that times are changing.

Lizzo 

“As a new vegan, I’m enjoying exploring flavours from plants and plant-based proteins! Every journey is personal and deserves to be celebrated,” 

Stuck for food inspiration? Then look no further than Lizzo’s TikTok (11 million followers and counting). She regularly gives fans updates on her plant-based daily diet, where she shares recipes in a non-preachy, humorous fashion. “Badda-boom-badda snack”.

@lizzo

🍃 as a new vegan im enjoying exploring flavors from plants & plant based proteins! Every journey is personal & deserves to be celebrated

♬ Wii – Mii Channel – Super Guitar Bros

Thom Yorke, Radiohead

Radiohead frontman said a number of things influenced his decision to go vegan.

“First thing was ‘Meat is Murder’, The Smiths. The second thing was getting sick all the time every time I ate meat and the third thing was I started going out with this girl and I wanted to impress her, so I pretended I’d been vegetarian all along and I immediately felt a lot better, a lot healthier.”

Yorke has long been a supporter of environmental causes and in 2010 Radiohead were listed as one of The Most Eco-Friendly Rockers by Rolling Stone magazine.

Moby 

“At the end of the day, what sustains me as an activist is love. The unconditional love I have for all animals. And I think that’s the best part of who I am, and I think it’s the best part of who we are. Every animal, no matter how big or how small or how wild or how domesticated, wants to be alive and simply wants to be happy.”

Few come more committed to a fully vegan diet than electronic dance music impresario Moby who has ‘Vegan for Life’ tattooed on his neck and had ‘Animal Rights’ writ large in ink down his arms to celebrate 35 years as a vegan.  Check out this fascinating discussion between Moby and Steve Ignorant from Crass in which they chat through all that is wrong with the world from Trump through to Brexit and Climate Change.

Tim Burgess, The Charlatans

“The first time I became a vegetarian was when I was 13 years old. My mum was brilliant about it. She went to the local supermarket and brought back big chunks of Quorn. It tasted like cardboard. But I did it because of the band Crass. They taught me about how meat was murder and that kind of stuff. And I just always really loved animals. I’ve relapsed, fallen off the wagon, especially in my teenage years. But I look into a cow’s eyes, and I think: “These are beautiful creatures.”

Tim Burgess saw anarcho-punk band Crass play in Winsford near where he lived and credits their album ‘Stations of the Crass’ as the reason he became vegetarian. 

Laurie Vincent, Slaves

“Essentially, the reason I’m vegan is that when you learn about the meat industry’s effects on our world, and how, if we stopped consuming meat, we could feed the whole world’s population on the beans that we feed to the cows — and we wouldn’t be destroying the ozone layer with the methane and we could reverse global warming substantially within 90 years.”

It comes as little surprise that Slaves’ guitarist lists ‘The Feeding of the 5000’ by Crass as one of 10 records that changed his life.

Stevie Wonder

“I’m motivating people to do something about how we’re living on this planet.” He also said, “We have to be about making our planet more greener, the urban areas more sustainable for the children. We can’t just talk about it, we have to be about it.”

Stevie Wonder, who has been known to rail against climate deniers, explains that his decision to go vegan in 2016 was very much driven by his commitment to a greener planet. 

The Wu-Tang Clan

Black Americans are three times more likely to be vegetarian or vegan than other Americans, a move in part driven by the influence and food activism of rapper KRS-One and hip hop grandees like The Wu-Tang Clan who seek to educate and motivate their community to adopt healthier food choices.

RZA “I think hip-hop has become more conscious about diet… You are what you eat, so if this cow who is stressed, dumbfounded, sick becomes your meal, when you eat it, you are eating that stress and sickness. You are eating that fear. My peers and people that are related to me appreciate the vegan lifestyle, it’s really spreading.”

Masta Killa

Here Masta Killa and his very cute son Eternal explain why they choose not to eat animals.

GZA

GZA explains why he doesn’t eat meat by quoting the lyrics of rap pioneer and outspoken vegan advocate KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions in his track ‘Beef’.

A$AP Rocky

A$AP has been on a journey from pescatarian to vegetarian and is now fully vegan. He started on the path to a fully plant-based diet back in 2011 when he was shocked to learn about the horrors of the poultry industry.

I became a pescatarian a few months back. I started doing research and found out how they treat those animals before they, you know, service them. They inject them with steroids and drugs that enhance their growth. None of that shit is healthy, and on top of that those fucking animals were stressed and compressed the whole time. That kind of food going into your body is unhealthy. I don’t mean to sound like some weirdo, but it is what it is.”

Ariana Grande

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGxb6_5Frr-/

”Look, cows produce milk with nutrients for cows. Maybe that’s why Americans end up looking like cows. Ultimately, no one wants cow tit pus in their food, do they?”

Fat shaming her compatriots with bovine comparisons may not be the way to win friends and influence people but telling them there’s puss in their milk is a sure-fire way to send people reaching for a soy latte.

Brian May, Queen

“To go vegan was just a decision, and I haven’t been preachy about it, but now we’ve seen more of the effects of how eating animals has brought us to our knees as a species, I think it’s time to re-examine our world in a way that doesn’t abuse other species.” (NME, April 2020)

Rock legend and animal rights campaigner Brian May has said he would rather be remembered for his animal rights activism than for his music. Founder member of the anti- cruelty charity Save Me, May has spearheaded a tireless campaign to end badger culling

Oli Sykes, Bring Me The Horizon

I don’t judge anyone who eats meat, because it’s all to do with compassion. I think we need to teach that compassion. It’s easy to say, ‘Everyone needs to stop eating meat.’ But when people say that, they’re not really thinking about these people’s individual lives – how they’ve been raised, what’s normal to them, and how much money they make a day. ” (Kerrang)

In 2018 Oli opened Church Temple of Fun, his own arcade bar and vegan street food kitchen in his home town Sheffield.

Will. I. Am

“I thought about what I was eating – I was gnawing on flesh, dead animal. If you think about it, it’s kind of sick.” (Veg News)

Will.I.Am makes no bones about the fact that converting to a vegan diet has been life changing. Describing himself as ‘violently vegan’, he credits his new plant based diet with drastically reducing his cholesterol, lowering his high blood pressure and helping him shed 20lbs. 

Akala

“I looked at my own culture and I saw that even if you go back to Jamaica, you see the average health of the Rastas in the hills is much better than those living in the city eating a very Westernised diet. A lot of my vegan doctors are in their seventies and eighties, and one, a guy called Dr Sebi, had a child at 83. And hey, if you can have a functioning erection at 83 you must know something about life!” (GQ, 2017)

Another subscriber to the ‘not your mother, not your milk’ argument, Akala is a strong exponent of the health benefits of a vegan diet and clearly a firm believer that it prolongs virility. Let’s hope this best selling author keeps plenty of lead in his pencil.

Travis Barker, Blink 182

“I feel great after every meal and I know that no animals are getting hurt in the process.

It isn’t just Masta Killa getting his kids in on the act. Travis Barker and daughter Alabama, who have a pig called Chad, recently joined forces with PETA to make some noise for animals. Travis is also involved with hip LA eatery, Crossroads, whose mantra is “we’re defined not by what’s missing but by what it is.”

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