Did you know that 80% of all agricultural land is utilised for livestock and feed, which ironically provides only 20% of calories? This imbalance in the food systems that feed the world has also led to 80% of biodiversity loss.
It’s only a matter of time before humankind becomes one of the declining species because the earth can no longer stand to nourish our dietary and living habits. This is one of the reasons that activists have been advocating for plant-based diets in recent years.
A plant-based lifestyle is considered sustainable because animal products profoundly impact our environment, mainly from the resources exhausted to feed, maintain, transport, and other relevant emissions and effects. This reality of meaty meals has inspired many to opt for a vegetarian or vegan diet. It also probably doesn’t hurt that a plant-based lifestyle also promotes other benefits, including better digestion, increased energy, and healthier skin, to name a few.
While the idea of going meat-less is by no means a new concept, here are some famous figures you may recognise who lived on plant-based diets for various reasons:
Leonardo da Vinci
While it hasn’t been proven that da Vinci was a vegetarian, there is some enticing evidence – including a contemporary letter describing him refusing to eat animal flesh – which suggests that da Vinci may have been a vegetarian.
Writings in da Vinci’s notebooks also display a deep concern for animal welfare and horror over the fact that animals are raised to be killed and eaten by humans. He wrote, “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.”
Ellen DeGeneres has been a vegan since 2008, with ethical reasons being at the forefront of her choice. She is quoted saying, “I personally chose to go vegan because I educated myself on factory farming and cruelty to animals, and I suddenly realised that what was on my plate were living things, with feelings. I just couldn’t disconnect myself from it any longer.”
The British singer-songwriter and former Beatle is a long-time vegetarian known for his animal rights campaigns with PETA. One day, something clicked in McCartney when he was fishing as he realised that he was killing a fish for passing pleasure. He said, “I realised as I watched him fight for breath that his life was as important to him as mine.”
Former United States Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore adopted a vegan lifestyle after first experimenting with reducing animal consumption.
“It’s absolutely correct that the growing meat intensity of diets around the world is one of the issues connected to this global crisis – not only because of the CO2 involved but also because of the water consumed in the process. You could add in the health consequences, as well,” he said.
Though the Formula One racer grew up eating meat, he switched to a plant-based diet in 2018 to promote animal welfare and to observe the changes in his body and energy levels. He credits his success partly to the lifestyle change.
The pop singer says her veganism is rooted in her love for animals. “I am a firm believer in eating a full plant-based, whole food diet that can expand your life length and make you an all-around happier person. It is tricky dining out, but I just stick to what I know – veggies, fruit and salad – then when I get home, I’ll have something else.”
The great Indian leader and activist lived on a plant-based diet from childhood, having been raised in a Hindu family that practised vegetarianism. However, Gandhi strayed from the traditions of his family in his adolescence, occasionally eating meat. Nevertheless, he eventually reaffirmed his commitment to vegetarianism while studying law in England, even though it often meant walking 10 or 12 miles a day to find vegetarian restaurants.
Gandhi and his teachings have greatly inspired the values of RYTHM Foundation as the social impact arm of the QI Group in many ways, including our advocacy for plant-based diets as part of our overall focus on sustainability. #RFGoesGreen and you can, too!
“We’ve been promoting plant-based diets throughout the company since our inception. Even if only 20% of the world decided to cut out meat, that could slow down the devastation the planet is going through right now,” says Datuk Sri Vijay Eswaran, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the QI Group.
From environmental concerns and animal cruelty activism to health benefits and traditions, there are plenty of reasons why people have adopted plant-based diets throughout history. But whether it’s purposefully or by accident, these famous figures have been doing their part to contribute to a more sustainable world.
There are many habits and lifestyle choices we can make to live more sustainable lives, and plant-based diets are just one of many steps we can take. With nature in emergency mode, every choice we make – both individual and collective – can help to facilitate transformative environmental change for a more sustainable Earth. After all, as the theme of this year’s World Environment Day on June 5 reminds us, we have #OnlyOneEarth.
“Let’s consciously save Mother Earth because otherwise, she will no longer be there. Do it, not for you and me, but for your children and the next generations to come,” said Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran, chairperson of RYTHM Foundation.