A list of famous vegetarians from the world of politics, science, entertainment, sport and art.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) – Indian nationalist and politician. Gandhi advocated ahimsa – non-violent protest for Indian self-determination. He was also a committed vegetarian, arguing the principle of ahimsa should be applied to animals.
Benjamin Franklin (1705 – 1790) Diplomat, political activist and inventor, who discovered electricity and invented the Franklin stove. Franklin wrote in his autobiography that he became a vegetarian when he was 16 years old. “Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.” – B. Franklin.
Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) President of the US during the American civil war. Although there is no hard evidence he was vegetarian, he expressed his desire for animal rights. “I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being”
Bill Clinton (1946 – ) US President (1992-2000) After health scares in the late 2000s, Clinton made the switch to veganism saying he changed his diet for health reasons.
Carl Lewis (1961 – ) US, athletics Nine-time Olympic gold medallist, Carl Lewis won gold in three Olympics. He stated that he became a vegan in 1990, and credits his diet with helping to prolong his career.
Martina Navratilova (1956 – ) The most successful female tennis player with 18 grand slam titles. Navratilova is a committed vegetarian.
Bill Pearl (1930 – ) Legendary body-builder and winner of numerous competitions, including ‘Mr Universe’ Five times. Pearl adopted a vegetarian diet at 39, dispelling myths meat was needed to be a bodybuilder.
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519) Artist and renaissance man. Da Vinci made many scientific discoveries. He also wrote that he could not abide any suffering inflicted on animals and was widely considered to be a vegetarian. “I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” – da Vinci
Sir Isaac Newton. (1642-1726) Great scientist and polymath, Newton was rumoured to be vegetarian, especially in the last years of his life. He expressed his compassion for animals.
Albert Einstein. (1879 – 1955) A committed vegetarian advocate. “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”
Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931)
Edison filed over 1,000 patents during his life and made many inventions commercially viable. He was a vegetarian saying – “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
Nikola Tesla (1856 –1943) Tesla was one of the great scientists of the electronic age. He made great innovations relating to A.C. current. In later years, he became a strict vegetarian.
Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011) Steve Jobs was the co-founder of Apple Computers, and a leading exponent of the personal computer revolution. Jobs was a long time vegetarian and health food advocate.
Mahavira (540 BCE–468 BCE) Mahavira was an important propagator and reformer of Jainism. He helped to spread the Jain religion of non-violence across India. A key principle of Jainism is non-violence and Jains go out of their way to avoid hurting other sentient beings, even insects. They are strict vegetarians.
Buddha (c 560BC – c 460BC) Siddhartha the Buddha was a Spiritual Teacher and founder of Buddhism. A key tenant of Buddhism is compassion and kindness to all sentient beings, including animals. The Buddha had a vegetarian diet.
Pythagoras (c. 570 BC – c 495 BC) Greek philosopher, spiritual leader and mathematician. Pythagoras led a secret mystical school. He advocated vegetarianism and believed human souls could reincarnate in animals and vice versa.
John Wesley (1703-1791) – Great preacher and founder of Methodism. Wesley advocated a plant-based diet for health reasons.
William Booth (1829 – 1912) – founder of the Salvation Army. William Booth became a vegetarian and credited his diet with giving him the strength for a vigorous lifestyle and founding the Salvation Army.
14th Dalai Lama. (1935 – ) Leader of the Tibetan Buddhists. The Dalai Lama is a vegetarian. “I was not vegetarian till about five decades ago, but when I saw hens being abused on an animal farm, I decided to become vegetarian,” He has also encouraged others to become vegetarian for health and compassionate reasons.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: (1896-1977) The founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a form of Vaishnavism. Swami Prabhupada is a strict vegetarian and advocates his followers adopt a vegetarian diet
Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007) Spiritual Teacher born in India and moved to the US in 1964. Famed for his weightlifting feats he accomplished in the last part of his life, Sri Chinmoy was also a strict vegetarian and encouraged his followers to also be vegetarian.
Socrates (BC) Athenian philosopher, famous for Socratic method “Would this habit of eating animals not require that we slaughter animals that we knew as individuals, and in whose eyes we could gaze and see ourselves reflected, only a few hours before our meal?”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) American Transcendentalist poet and writer. Emerson abhorred slaughterhouses and said he tried to stick to a vegetarian diet.
Rabindranath Tagore ( 1861 – 1941) Indian poet. Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature for his Gitanjali. Tagore was a vegetarian. “We can only eat meat when we do not think about the cruel, sinful thing that must be done to obtain it.” – Tagore.
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) Irish playwright and wit. Socialist, pacifist and vegetarian. Shaw famously stated, “Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) Russian author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Tolstoy was a vegetarian and argued there was a strong moral basis for vegetarianism. “A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.”
Franz Kafka (1883 – 1924) Existentialist writer. After adopting a vegetarian diet, Kafka stated: “Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore.”
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) Important early feminist. Mary Wollstonecraft and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley were both vegetarians and advocates of animal rights.
Activists and entertainment
Jane Goodall (1934- ) British Conservationist who has helped to conserve Chimpanzees in the wild. She is also a spokesperson for conservation and animal welfare. Goodall has been a lifelong vegetarian, who shares a close sympathy with animals.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005) – Civil rights activist. Parks precipitated the Montgomery bus boycott (1955) In 2004, she stated she had been a vegetarian for 40 years, partly due to the health benefits.
Brigitte Bardot (1934 – ) Actress, singer and fashion model. She later turned to animal rights activism. In 1986 she became a vegetarian and is a major opponent of the consumption of horse meat.
Linda McCartney (1941-1998) An American musician and photographer. Linda became vegetarian in the 1970s and formed her own company selling vegetarian foods. She has promoted the ethical treatment of animals through supporting organisations like PETA.
Pamela Anderson (1967 – ) Canadian model, actress and animal rights activist. Anderson appeared in an advertisement designed to discourage meat-eating. Anderson’s bikini-clad body was covered in marks that mimic a butcher’s diagram — with parts of her flesh marked up with words like ‘breast,’ ’round,’ and ‘rump.’…
Alicia Silverstone (1976 – ) American actress, tv producer and animal rights activist. She became a vegan in 1998 and has published a book ‘The Kind Diet’ offering guide to vegan cooking.
Ellen DeGeneres (1958 – ) Actress, comedian, and tv host. DeGeneres is a committed animal rights activist and vegan.
Paul McCartney (1942 -) Leading member of the Beatles. Paul McCartney says he became a vegetarian after being on a fishing trip and seeing a fish suffer. His wife, Linda, set up a vegetarian food company. “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Paul McCartney
Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Vegetarians”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net, 11/02/2013. Last updated, 27 Feb 2018.
Animal rights activists – Brigitte Bardot, Linda McCartney, Peter Singer and Jeremy Bentham.
Famous pacifists – People who refused to fight and people who supported different forms of pacifism. Includes Leo Tolstoy, Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi.
People who promoted world peace – People who have made a great contribution to creating a more peaceful world. Including Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Malala Yousafzai Pope John Paul II and Mikhail Gorbachev.