Famous vegetarians, past and present

Famous vegetarians, past and present

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Laura Pollard looks at some famous vegetarians and vegans, both past and present.

Here, we take a look at leading historical and contemporary figures who have adopted a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

PAST: Albert Einstein

One of the most important physicists of all time and developer of the general theory of relativity, Albert Einstein was a vegetarian, and is famously quoted as saying, “I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore”.

PRESENT: Lizzie Armitstead

Dispelling the idea that being vegetarian means lacking energy and protein, Lizzie Armitstead, professional cyclist, is one of several high-profile athletes who have gained recognition for their vegetarian lifestyles. A vegetarian since the age of 10, Armitstead is currently the reigning World, Commonwealth and National road race champion.

PAST: Rosa Parks

Civil rights activist Rosa Parks was a key figure in the civil rights movement and is remembered for her act of civil disobedience in refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. She was also reportedly a vegetarian, and has been quoted as saying that healthy eating was one of her priorities.

PRESENT: Forest Whitaker

Academy-award winner Forest Whitaker openly embraces a vegetarian lifestyle, saying that the decision to cut out meat “was one of the best choices I ever made”. On behalf of PETA, he and his daughter True recorded a video to promote the cause.

PAST: Antoni Gaudí

The famous Spanish architect, perhaps best-known for the Sagrada Família, the awe-inspiring church that is a must-see on any trip to Barcelona, was reportedly a strict vegetarian for health reasons. He adopted a healthy lifestyle free of meat products, favouring simple meals and lots of water.

PRESENT: Billie Jean King

Pro Tennis player Billie Jean King is also vegetarian; this can be added to her long list of notable achievements, which include her advocacy work for women and members of the LGBQT community.

PAST: George Bernard Shaw

Much-loved Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw became vegetarian from the age of 25. He later said, “I was a cannibal for twenty-five years. For the rest I have been a vegetarian”.


It will come as no surprise that environmental activist Al Gore is vegan. In 2009 he publicly stated that the, “growing meat intensity of diets around the world is one of the issues connected to [the] global crisis — not only because of the CO2 involved, but also because of the water consumed in the process”. According to a later interview, however, his decision to go vegan was based on a personal decision to experiment with the diet.


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