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Vegetarian Leaders & Activists

     21-30 of 50 Famous Vegetarians


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21. Brigitte Bardot     22. Cesar Chávez     23. Bill Clinton     24. Benjamin Franklin
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi     26. Coretta Scott King      27. Dennis Kucinich     28. Christine Lagarde
Rosa Parks     30. Russell Simmons
Brigitte Bardot21. Brigitte Bardot
(Born Sep. 28, 1934)

French animal rights activist; former actress and model; founding president of Fondation Brigitte Bardot

“A carrot [i.e. praise] to actress Brigitte Bardot for getting involved in saving two horses from slaughter. After hearing that the animals were to be slaughtered, Bardot protested to the press, ‘Before they kill the mare, they will have to kill me.’ Her protest was heard by French agricultural officials who found her pleas hard to ignore—and found a home for the animals.”

“The Carrot & the Stick,” Vegetarian Times, Oct. 1984

“If the ‘developed’ countries decreased their meat consumption, it would be possible to considerably alleviate global hunger, which kills nearly six million children each year.

Mr. President [European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso], faced with these undeniable and somewhat alarming facts, it is our collective duty to act on all levels, including the promotion of a vegetarian lifestyle.

The launch of a ‘European Vegetarian Day’ would be a strong signal…

Vegetarianism is an initiative of responsible citizens. To refuse meat consumption represents also the best way to protest against the inhumanity and cruelty on factory farms, during transports and during the slaughter of billions of animals that are sacrificed and eaten each year.”

“Brigitte Bardot: The Launch of a ‘European Vegetarian Day’ Would Be a Strong Signal: Open Letter to EC President Jose Manuel Barroso,”, Nov. 2009

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Cesar Chávez22. Cesar Chávez
(Born Mar. 31, 1927; Died Apr. 23, 1993)

Latino US labor leader and civil rights advocate  

“I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom. It was my dog Boycott who led me to question the right of humans to eat other sentient beings.

Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are all cut from the same defective fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves…

We need, in a special way, to work twice as hard to help people understand that the animals are fellow creatures, that we must protect them and love them as we love ourselves… We know we cannot be kind to animals until we stop exploiting them – exploiting animals in the name of science, exploiting animals in the name of sport, exploiting animals in the name of fashion, and yes, exploiting animals in the name of food.”

Cesar Chávez, quoted by Dan Brook in “Cesar Chávez and Comprehensive Rights,” available at the United Farm Workers of America website, May 30, 2007

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Bill Clinton23. Bill Clinton (aka William Jefferson Clinton and William Jefferson Blythe III)
(Born August 19, 1946)  

42nd president of the United States (1993–2001); former governor of Arkansas; former United Nations Special Envoy for relief efforts; Chairman of the National Constitution Center; United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti; author

“By the time he reached the White House, Bill Clinton’s appetite was legend. He loved hamburgers, steaks, chicken enchiladas, barbecue and french fries but wasn’t too picky. At one campaign stop in New Hampshire, he reportedly bought a dozen doughnuts and was working his way through the box until an aide stopped him.

Former President Clinton now considers himself a vegan. He’s dropped more than 20 pounds, and he says he’s healthier than ever. His dramatic dietary transformation took almost two decades and came about only after a pair of heart procedures and some advice from a trusted doctor…

In 2004, less than four years after leaving office, the 58-year-old Clinton felt what he described as a tightness in his chest as he returned home from New Orleans, where he was promoting his memoir, ‘My Life.’ Days later, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to his heart.

‘I was lucky I did not die of a heart attack,’ Clinton told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta…

‘I essentially concluded that I had played Russian roulette,’ Clinton said, ‘because even though I had changed my diet some and cut down on the caloric total of my ingestion and cut back on much of the cholesterol in the food I was eating, I still — without any scientific basis to support what I did — was taking in a lot of extra cholesterol without knowing if my body would produce enough of the enzyme to support it, and clearly it didn’t or I wouldn’t have had that blockage. So that’s when I made a decision to really change.’

The former president now says he consumes no meat, no dairy, no eggs, almost no oil.

‘I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now,’ Clinton told Gupta…

‘All my blood tests are good, and my vital signs are good, and I feel good, and I also have, believe it or not, more energy,’ Clinton said. His latest goal: getting his weight down to 185, what he weighed when he was 13 years old.”

David S. Martin, “From Omnivore to Vegan: The Dietary Education of Bill Clinton,”, Aug. 18, 2011

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Benjamin Franklin24. Benjamin Franklin
(Born Jan. 17, 1706; Died Apr. 17, 1790)

US inventor, diplomat, scientist, etc.; Founding Father of the United States

“When about 16 years of age I happened to meet with a book, written by one Tryon [vegetarianism advocate Thomas Tryon], recommending a vegetable diet. I determined to go into it. My brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep house, but boarded himself and his apprentices in another family. My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chid for my singularity. I made myself acquainted with Tryon’s manner of preparing some of his dishes, such as boiling potatoes or rice, making hasty pudding, and a few others, and then proposed to my brother, that if he would give me, weekly, half the money he paid for my board, I would board myself. He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I could save half what he paid me… [D]espatching presently my light repast, which often was no more than a bisket or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins or a tart from the pastry-cook’s, and a glass of water… I made the greater progress, from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking…

…[I]n my first voyage from Boston, being becalm’d off Block Island, our people set about catching cod, and hauled up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion consider’d, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and, when this came hot out of the frying-pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, ‘If you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.’ So I din’d upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 1793

Image source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi25. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aka Mahatma (great soul)
(Born Oct. 2, 1869; Died Jan. 30, 1948)

Indian spiritual and political leader; philosophical and religious writer; collected works total more than 50,000 pages in 100 volumes

“…[W]e should all be Vegetarians. For why should it be otherwise when [British physician] Sir Henry Thompson calls it ‘a vulgar error’ to suppose that flesh-foods are indispensable for our sustenance, and the most eminent physiologists declare that fruit is the natural food of man… Muscular Vegetarians demonstrate the superiority of their diet by pointing out that the peasantry of the world are practically Vegetarians, and that the strongest and most useful animal, the horse, is a Vegetarian, while the most ferocious and practically useless animal, the lion, is a carnivore…”

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, “The Superiority of Vegetarianism” (letter to the National Mercury, Feb. 3, 1896), quoted in Ethical Vegetarianism: from Pythagoras to Peter Singer, Eds. Kerry S. Walters and Lisa Portmess, 1999

“…I received a letter to the effect that Kasturbai [Gandhi’s wife] was worse, too weak to sit up in bed, and had once become unconscious. The doctor knew that he might not, without my consent, give her wines or meat. So he telephoned to me at Johannesburg for permission to give her beef tea. I replied saying I could not grant the permission, but that, if she was in a condition to express her wish in the matter she might be consulted, and she was free to do as she liked…

I took the train for Durban the next day, and met the doctor who quietly broke this news to me: ‘I had already given Mrs. Gandhi beef tea when I telephoned you.’

‘Now, doctor, I call this a fraud,’ said I…

‘Doctor, tell me what you propose to do now. I would never allow my wife to be given meat or beef, even if the denial meant her death, unless of course she desired to take it.’

…I next spoke to Kasturbai herself… I told her what had passed between the doctor and myself. She gave a resolute reply: ‘I will not take beef tea. It is a rare thing in this world to be born as a human being, and I would far rather die in your arms than pollute my body with such abominations.’

I pleaded with her. I told her that she was not bound to follow me… But she was adamant. ‘No,’ said she, ‘pray remove me [from the doctor’s residence] at once.’

I was delighted…”

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1927-1929

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Coretta Scott King26. Coretta Scott King
(Born Apr. 27, 1927; Died Jan. 30, 2006)

Civil rights, women’s rights and anti-war activist; wife of Martin Luther King, Jr.;
founding president and chief executive officer of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change; soprano vocalist

“Coretta King, 78, chose homeopathic treatments to fight her disease [cancer], refusing to believe doctors who said it would be life-ending. In her later years, she had become a vegan, abstaining from meat and dairy products.”

Darryl Fears and Hamil R. Harris, “Coretta Scott King’s Four Children Speak of Her Illness, Final Days,” Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2006

“…I was in Dr. King’s house in Atlanta providing food service to Coretta Scott King. I knew this was no coincidence. Mrs. King had given up meat at the urging of Dexter her son, and had fallen into the thinking that ‘going raw’ was what she needed to do to get healthier. I was the second or so in a progression to provide her with raw food…”

Adama Maweja, “The Fulfillment of the Movement,” in Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society, Ed. A. Breeze Harper, 2010

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Dennis Kucinich27. Dennis Kucinich
(Born Oct. 8, 1946)

US Representative (D-OH); former US former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination (2004 and 2008); former Mayor of Cleveland, OH

“[Being vegan] is a great approach to eating, which for me has given me enormous amounts of energy and clarity and the kind of clarity and energy people want in a president of the United States…

…Before I switched my diet I’d start out the day with–eating a few bowls of cereal, steak, eggs, toast, six–half dozen glazed donuts, fruit compote. You know, I was working on being a big man in town.”

“Getting Personal with Presidential Hopeful Kucinich” (video interview),, June 6, 2007

“The odds seem stacked against Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich becoming our first vegan president. But a few years ago who would have predicted he’d marry an Englishwoman 31 years his junior? Here, Elizabeth Kucinich—who admits to indulging occasionally in dairy—discusses the couple’s diet at home and on the campaign trail…

EK: Dennis makes breakfast. He’s an oatmeal fan. He eats it for breakfast with nuts and dried fruits and whole-wheat toast. But I do the cooking, normally. My mother taught me to cook from an early age. Dennis’s favorite is pasta, but I like grains and nutty things. Couscous. Lots of vegetables. Dennis also loves going to the Middle Eastern store. He likes hummus, baba ghanoush and all those wonderful Arabian dishes.

Is it difficult to find good vegan food on the campaign trail?

EK: We have what we call a vegan underground network, with people who pop up at events with wonderful home-cooked meals and packed lunches. But it can be difficult in certain states. In those cases we have spaghetti with olive oil and garlic.”

Calvin Hennick, “Dennis Kucinich – Vegan on the Campaign Trail,” EatingWell magazine website (accessed Dec. 8, 2011)

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Christine Lagarde28. Christine Lagarde
(Born Jan. 1, 1956)

French President and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Head of French Airline Unit at Air France-KLM; lawyer

“Two weeks ago Lagarde became the first woman to head up the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the latest high in a career that has seen her become the first female finance minister of a G8 economy, as well as the first female chair of an international law firm.

…Lagarde is a teetotal vegetarian; she goes to the gym every day, cycles 20 to 30km once a week and swims as often as she can. She told a French paper recently that ‘success is never complete. It’s an endless combat. Each morning one must put one’s capacities to the test once again.'”

“Is This the World’s Sexiest Woman (and the Most Powerful)?,” Molly Guinness, Observer, July 16, 2011

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Rosa Parks29. Rosa Parks
(Born Feb. 4, 1913; Died Oct. 24, 2005) 

Civil rights activist credited with starting the US civil rights movement; author; US Medal of Freedom recipient (1996); Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize recipient

“For over forty years, I’ve been vegetarian. Growing up, my family had little money—I had health problems early in life because of poor nutrition. Eating healthy is a priority for me.”

Rosa Parks, “Interview: Rosa Parks on the Power of Love,” in Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress and Fear into Vibrance, Strength and Love,” by Judith Orloff, MD, 2004

“Parks maintains a vegetarian diet. Among her favorite vegetables are broccoli, greens, sweet potatoes and string beans.”

“Rosa Parks: Did You Know?,” Cincinnati Enquirer website (accessed Dec. 21, 2011)

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Russell Simmons30. Russell Simmons
(Born Oct. 4, 1957)

Hip hop entrepreneur; cofounder of Def Jam records, launching the careers of the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Run-DMC, etc.; founder of Phat Farm clothing line; film producer; vegan activist

“I was raised eating meat just like most other Americans. I believed that finishing my dinner and gulping down my milk would make me grow up to be big and strong. I was given a familiar message that kids (and parents!) are still being spoon-fed today. Never once did I consider exactly what I was eating or what happened to the animal before it reached my plate… but it wasn’t until about fifteen years ago when I began taking yoga classes at Jivamukti Yoga Center in NYC that I became vegetarian… Up until this time, a hamburger was something stuck between two buns — not a cow, a wing was something you dipped in BBQ sauce — not a chicken, and milk was something you drank as a human, never realizing it was only meant for a calf.

…The more I opened myself up to the idea of the full scope of exactly what non-violence translates to, the less interested I became in consuming the energy associated with the flesh of an animal that only knew suffering in his/her life and pain and terror in its death. The more I learned about factory farming and the cruelty animals raised for food must endure before they are led (or dragged) to slaughter, the more I realized that I could not, in good conscience, be a contributor to such violence…

I am a father. I want my children and their children to have a healthy Earth to live in for many years to come. The impact on the Earth from eating meat is mind-blowing. Every year in the U.S., more than 27 billion animals are slaughtered for food. Meat consumption is poisoning and depleting our potable water, land and pure, clean air. More than half of the water used in the United States today goes to animal agriculture, and since animals on factory farms produce 130 times more waste than the human population, the result is polluting our waterways. Animal excrement emits gases, such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, which poison the air around farms, as well as methane and nitrous oxide, all resulting in the number one cause of global warming. This needs to stop.”

Russell Simmons, “Why I’m Vegan,” The Ellen DeGeneres Show website, Dec. 10, 2010

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)

Adolf HitlerAdolf Hitler (aka Der Führer)
(Born Apr. 20, 1889; died Apr. 30, 1945)

Disputed vegetarian

Austrian-born leader of Germany’s National Socialist (Nazi) Party and chancellor and Führer (leader) of Germany’s “Third Reich” dictatorship (1933–45); TIME Magazine Man of the Year (1938)  

“Now, in her first-ever interview, Hitler’s official food taster acknowledged the long-believed fact that the German dictator was a vegetarian.

Margot Woelk, 95, told the Times in London that she and several others were forced to eat the Fuhrer’s food before he did to ensure it hadn’t been poisoned…

‘They told me we have to taste the food that Hitler is served,’ Woelk said. ‘Of course, I was afraid. If it had been poisoned, I would not be here today. We were forced to eat it, we had no choice. It was all vegetarian, the most delicious fresh things, from asparagus to peppers and peas, served with rice, and salads. It was all arranged on one plate, just as it was served to him.’”           

Jeff Stone, “Hitler’s Food Taster Reveals Nazi Dictator Was Vegetarian,”, Feb. 9, 2013

“Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s vegetarianism was a myth. News of Hitler’s plant-based diet was propaganda to portray him as an ascetic, sacrificing luxuries of meat, alcohol, and tobacco for the people, yet some biographers and journalists described his fondness for flesh, including that of pigs and turtles.”

Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism, Ed. Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz, 2010

“…[There is] compelling evidence that Hitler’s ‘vegetarianism’ was similar to that of many omnivores today who call themselves vegetarians although they have only eliminated ‘red meat’ from their diet. Hitler continued to eat squab, sausage, and liver dumplings… [W]hen Hitler came to power, vegetarian societies were declared illegal.”

Carol J. Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, 2010

Photo source: (accessed Jan. 10, 2012)


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