Robert Downey Jr. (RDJ from here on) isn’t going vegan and neither are many of the other celebrities going on plant-based diets. They are being constantly lauded for going “vegan” in the news when they aren’t.
Before we label someone a “vegan” for a good headline or to feel like veganism is spreading fast (it is) we need to make sure we stay within the definition of being a vegan.
Ask yourself, what is a vegan? Is it a diet? No, it’s a moral and ethical stance one takes against animal cruelty and exploitation in all of its forms. A plant-based diet just happens to be a great and healthy side effect of being a vegan.
We do a great disservice to those who have and continue to dedicate their lives to veganism and to animal rights if we start labeling anyone going on a plant-based diet as “vegan” just because it’s “cool” or headline-grabbing.
Donald Watson, the one who coined the portmanteau “Vegan” (a shortened version of vegetarian using the first and last parts of the word) and who started The Vegan Society laid out the original and still the very relevant definition of what it means to be a vegan:
“Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, and any other purpose.”
Being vegan and taking a stance as a vegan is about doing what is right as far as we can in a pre-vegan world. It’s about not settling for harming animals if we can help it in all the ways we can avoid doing so.
Robert Downey Jr. has said nothing about animal rights and has said he’s giving up chicken for a more plant-based diet. Nowhere has he shown or declared that he is taking animal rights into consideration by actually helping animals using his fame like Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix have done, nor has he spoken out about what animals go through like real vegan celebrities have.
RDJ even said: “I’m going plant-based! For cash and legumes,”
Sure he was joking around but even the iron man and Avengers: Endgame star said it very plainly himself as to not misrepresent himself so why do so many want to do so for him?
He’s also well aware that his lifestyle and choices are having consequences on a global scale saying in a recent interview:
“I have this quiet sense of crisis, I’m a one-man carbon footprint nightmare colossus.”
Hopefully with his new plant-based diet and awareness spreading by events like the Golden Globes where Joaquin Phoenix gave a speech about the climate crisis and the awards themselves serving a vegan plant-based menu he and others will be changing rapidly in this new decade.
It’s time to stop lumping celebrities in with vegans because we want the recognition or “clout” or whatever it is those perpetuating this watering down of veganism are after.
Praise those like Joaquin Phoenix who went to the LA Pig Vigil after winning a SAG award for being a light in the darkness using his fame to shine a light on the ugly realities of what happens to the animals so many millions still eat.
Sure give RDJ and other celebrities praise for going plant-based but don’t reduce the impact of what being vegan or an animal rights activist actually has on the over 6,000 animals per second dying because people want to selfishly choose to eat their bodies or what squirts out of them.
In short, the real heroes aren’t the fun CGI enhanced actors like RDJ but everyday vegan animal rights activists sacrificing their time, money, careers and sometimes even their lives to make a difference for the animals.
Don’t diminish those heroes or the animals by forcing a vegan label on every celebrity that goes on a plant-based diet let’s instead award the vegan label when they’ve earned it. Doing so will hold them up as examples we all need especially the next generation.