This month we remember Martin Luther King, and the black vegetarians who have contributed so much to the civil rights movement. Let’s also remember other great vegetarians who have contributed to civil rights, or the development of a better life for us all, throughout American history.
Cesar Chavez poster image
Many people are surprised to learn that Cesar Chavez, who led a movement for Latino worker rights, was a vegetarian, motivated by his compassion for animals. He said, “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.”
Similarly, founding father, Benjamin Franklin, Susan B. Anthony, who played such a prominent role in women’s suffrage, and Clara Barton, the great humanitarian and founder of the American Red Cross, were all vegetarians.
Celebrities taking vegan pledges has become a part of Hollywood culture, and now Tinseltown’s tiny ones are next in line to take on veganism. Several Hollywood kids have taken the two-week vegan challenge and loved it.
Kid rapper Lela Brown, who was a contestant on “America’s Got Talent,” has also signed up. “I decided to do the cleanse because I thought it would be a really cool experience to try being vegan,” she said. She also said she was hoping for more energy and to “clear out her pores.”
Johnny Sequoyah, 11, of the show “Believe” said that in the two days since she started the vegan challenge, she already feels better. She loves donuts and French Fries, she said, but has learned that when “you’re eating only junk food, it makes you really tired. Whenever I finish a hamburger or doughnut I do feel tired and sometimes in a bad mood after.” She said she likes smoothies, and also kale salad with lemon as her favorite “healthy substitute.”
It’s wonderful to see the connection being made by children that what we eat has an effect on our health. Hopefully, they are also learning about the positive effects a vegan diet can have on the animals and the planet along the way.
Manchester United legend and current team coach, Phil Neville, has decided to go vegetarian. The soccer all-star credits his wife for encouraging him to make the switch. “My wife’s been vegetarian for about four, five years now”, he says. “I promised my wife that I would try it for two weeks. … I started to feel healthier, leaner. I started to feel great!”
He also recognizes the damage that animal agriculture has on the environment and the suffering endured by animals raised for food. “I think people are understanding the benefits, not just for yourself but for … the environment”, he says. “2.5 million animals a day are being slaughtered. That is a damning statistic that we need to do something about.”
On July 4th our country celebrated its 241st birthday. At times like this many folks become historically minded, so we thought that we celebrate some of the famous vegetarians in American history. Some stereotypes about vegetarians suggest that the vegetarian choice is some new fangled thing that sprung up in the 60’s somewhere, but the truth is that the veg-movement has been with the good old US of A from the every beginning. Here are just two examples of great Americans making a wise and delicious choice.
Founding father Benjamin Franklin leads the list. Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a leading author, printer, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment, and in the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and a carriage odometer. He facilitated many civic organizations, including a fire department and a university.
Franklin himself explains how he first became a vegetarian. “When about 16 Years of Age, I happen’d to meet with a Book, written by one Tryon, recommending a Vegetable Diet. I determined to go into it.” He seems to have been pleased with the results when he says “My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chided for my singularity, but, with this lighter repast, I made the greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension. Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.”
Civil rights activist Rosa Parks was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her refusal to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus spurred a city-wide boycott. The city of Montgomery had no choice but to lift the law requiring segregation on public buses. Rosa Parks received many accolades during her lifetime, including the NAACP’s highest award. In 1999, Time magazine named Rosa Parks one of the 20 most influential people of the 20th century.
Rosa Parks maintained a vegetarian lifestyle until she passed away in 2005. “I have been a vegetarian for a few years. It was not hard at all to not eat meat. [Becoming a vegetarian] was something I wanted to do,” she said. Among her favorite vegetables were broccoli, greens, sweet potatoes and string beans.