7 Famous Vegans in History

My list of famous vegans in my last article History of the Vegan Diet – Famous Vegans in History was still missing many names, so I created a new blog post to add them here. This list is still not complete and it can go on and on, which means that an extraordinary amount of great thinkers of the past opted for a cruelty-free diet.

Besides Pythagoras, Plato, Voltaire, Da Vinci, Mary Shelley, and many others, today we are going to have a look at the following famous vegans in history and why they chose a cruelty-free diet.

7 Famous Vegans in History

  • Franz Kafka
    He was a vegetarian for health and ethical reasons, and an animal rights activist, being vehemently opposed to vivisection. He was also interested in a plant-based raw food diet. Once he viewed a fish in an aquarium and said, “Now I can look at you in peace. I don’t eat you any more.”
    fish bowl - Franz Kafka - vegetarian
    • Another quote by Kafka: “One sits at the table laughing and talking, and meanwhile tiny shreds of meat between the teeth produce germs of decay and fermentation, no less than a dead rat squashed between two stones.”

  • Nicola Tesla
    It took him a few decades to slowly shift into a vegetarian diet. He continued eating fish for a while, but then eliminated that too.

Tesla claimed that “On the general principles the raising of cattle as a means of providing food is objectionable.It is certainly preferable to raise vegetables, and I think, therefore, that vegetarianism is a commendable departure from the established barbarous habit. That we can subsist on plant food and perform our work even to advantage is not a theory, but a well-demonstrated fact. Many races living almost exclusively on vegetables are of superior physique and strength.”

Continued: “There is no doubt that some plant food, such as oatmeal, is more economical than meat, and superior to it in regard to both mechanical and mental performance. Such food, moreover, taxes our digestive organs decidedly less, and, in making us more contented and sociable, produces an amount of food difficult to estimate. In view of these facts every effort should be made to stop the wanton and cruel slaughter of animals, which must be destructive to our morals.”

Source:https://ivu.org/history/northam20a/tesla.htm


  •  Rosa Parks
    Rosa Parks is known in history for refusing to give up her bus seat. She was also a vegetarian for over 40 years.Rosa Parks
    “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.”

  • Coretta Scott King
    Not only was she a tireless civil rights leader and social justice activist, but she was also vegan. Her son convinced her to embrace a vegan lifestyle, and both she and her son believed that it was the logical extension of Martin Luther King’s teachings of nonviolence and justice.
  • Angela Davis is best known for her human rights activism, but she has also been a long-time vegan. At the 17th Steve Biko Memorial lecture which took place in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2016, she discussed the connection between human rights and animal rights.


  • Mohatma Gandhi
    He is probably the one person in history who is best-known as a vegetarian. Having been born into a vegetarian household, he has always embraced vegetarianism and veganism. Using goat milk as a substitute for cow’s milk, he was a lifelong vegetarian. It is interesting to note that although Gandhi died in 1948, his beliefs about food were quite advanced for his times and are applicable today. For example, he was steadfast against any processed foods; and he avoided foods with ingredients he could not pronounce

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  • Cesar Chavez
    The co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association and labor leader was a vegetarian and, for some time, vegan.
    “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” Chavez said.

“We can’t be kind to animals until we stop exploiting them in the name of science, in the name of sport, in the name of fashion, and yes, exploiting animals in the name of food.” (quote, Cesar Chavez)

After he died, Chavez was buried next to his dog, Boycott.

Final Thoughts

When I research famous vegetarians or vegans in history, the list seems to be growing and growing. Although I was aware of some, such as Da Vinci, Mary and Percy Shelley, Albert Einstein, Coretta Scott King, Gandhi, and Rosa Parks for example, names keep on popping up, giving me pleasant surprises.

I find it inspiring that great thinkers, civil rights and human rights activists, scientists, and authors have all agreed on one thing: animals feel pain, and using them for food is a cause for immense suffering.

Many great thinkers have claimed that by ingesting animal flesh we ingest their misery and brutal deaths, and that consuming such violence leads us to making more war and causing more damage to the world. These words ring true nowadays, but interestingly enough, Pythagoras said them over 2000 years ago. In the 18th Century, Voltaire has argued the same thing, and so have several other philosophers.

vegan bowl
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Human rights, like animal rights, have been an issue since the creation of mankind. Although we are not entirely there yet, we have made great progress regarding human rights. At last, animal rights are now also becoming important. Laws have been passed in some – but not enough – countries or states to provide some protection for pets and even for farmed animals. Not enough is done, though. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go, and the most important thing is that we need to change our mindset regarding animals.

We must remove the tags we have given them, labels that have given us the “right” to use and abuse animals. However, it is us, people, who placed those labels on them: “inferior”, “livestock”, “don’t feel pain”. It is up to us to remove those labels and recognize that we, the humans, and they, the animals, react exactly the same to a knife that is cutting through our flesh and arteries. We will both scream in pain.

A-vegan-transition-course

Sources

International Vegetarian Union

History of Vegetarianism

NBC

Meat Your Future

ChooseVeg

Vegan Outreach

Human and Animal Rights

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3 thoughts on “7 Famous Vegans in History”

  1. Hi Christine, I always love to read your articles. Especially when I am surprised by something I didn’t know yet, like a couple of the famous vegans you mention in this post. The connection you make between being a vegan or vegetarian and animal rights is a good one.

    As you know I am not a 100% vegan, nor a 100% vegetarian, but a 95% of both. But the environment and the resources were my main reasons back in those days to ban (red) meat from my diet. Phew, that’s already over 40 years ago, I realised just now.

    What did the trick was reading that 1kg of meat required 7kg of resources. So not exactly animal rights (sorry) but the effect is the same.

    It’s such a pity there has not much changed for the good in those 40 years. On the contrary, meat consumption has only grown, in developed countries, but in what they call the 3rd world countries as well where living standards rise.

    We still have a long way to go!

    Reply
    • Hi Hannie,

      It is very true that not only animal cruelty is an issue, but also the impact on the environment animal factory farming causes. The amount of water that is used to produce a pound of beef or pork or other types of meat is shocking … Meat consumption has also risen in some third world countries, and we do have a long way to go, but I am also seeing many changes. Mexico, where I am living, for example has the highest number of vegans and vegetarians in Latin America. More and more people are waking up to animals cruelty every day and making changes in their lives. We may still have a long way to go, but I am hopeful that that change will happen.

      Reply
  2. Its really hard to find a genuine site that accommodates vegan diet while at the same time enjoying something yummy. My uncle is a strict vegan. At first it used to feel weird but then we all used to the normal vegan lifestyle. Not only did his medical condition influence only his life but for the entire family aswell.Nice to have these inspiring people here.

    Reply

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