Celebrity vegans: a help or a hindrance?

As the health benefits of a plant-based diet become more widely recognised, more celebrities are embracing the vegan diet. Given the social media driven celeb-session of today, stars announcing their new-found veganism, without a doubt, leads to more awareness for the movement and the issues it champions. But what if those celebrities publicise their endeavors into veganism in a way that trivialises it as merely a diet when to the rest of us it is a way of life? And what if they then publicly denounce it as “something that didn’t work for them” — is it still a help to our cause, or a hindrance?

Recently two singers who have the power to influence legions of fans have shone a spotlight on veganism. Beyoncé Knowles and Miley Cyrus are the world’s newest superstar vegans and while literally hundreds of thousands of impressionable pop devotees will now be looking further into a lifestyle they may know little about — only one of these women’s messages has staying power.

At the beginning of the month Beyoncé announced that she was back on the vegan bandwagon.  “This is something I have to share with everyone,” she said. “I am not naturally the thinnest woman. I have curves. I’m proud of my curves and I have struggled since a young age with diets. And finding something that actually works, that actually keeps the weight off, has been difficult for me.” Bey claims that the “secret to looking flawless” can be found in adopting the vegan diet and as you and I know, she’s right there!

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But how much thought has the popstar given to the issues raised by veganism that run deeper than the superficial benefits of weight loss and firm skin? The last time her and hubby Jay Z embarked on 22 days of vegan eating as a “spiritual and physical cleanse,” she was snapped wearing outfits seemingly designed to represent what she was unable to eat: a leather and cow-print top and a pepperoni pizza covered ensemble. Not to mention the time she rocked up to a vegan restaurant sporting a fox-fur-collared jacket causing newspaper headlines to cry: Are You Fur Real? Her disingenuous attempts to embrace the “spiritual” element of her new diet threatens to make a farce of the community she is joining.

On the other hand, Miley Cyrus has also recently gone public with her vegan status, a year after making the switch to a plant-powered diet. The reason she waited a year to speak out? She wanted to be sure she was, “finally ready to be held accountable — to be an example.” When Miley lost her best fur pal, Floyd, she stopped eating animal products cold. The motivation behind her decision to go vegan is driven by compassion and as such she has carefully considered how publicising her choice will affect the movement. This will have a far greater social impact than simply revealing a switch to plant-based as a “diet secret” that can help girls get thinner.

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While we know the health benefits of going vegan are stellar. Veganism is a movement that affects the health and wellbeing of us, the animals and the planet. If we want to see a trend of young people going vegan and staying vegan it needs to be about more than just personal health.

Let’s hope that Miley’s recent revelations inspire her followers to make a thoughtful and positive change in their lives because they realise that compassion and consciousness — not weight loss — are cool and empowering.

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