While more people than ever are making the compassionate choice to go vegan, choosing not to eat animal products isn’t new. In fact, throughout history many people decided they wouldn’t contribute to needless animal suffering.
Here are 10 historical figures you won’t believe were veg!
They probably didn’t teach you in math class that, in addition to being a brilliant mathematician, Pythagoras was one of the most famous and influential ancient Greek philosophers. He and his followers were also famous for being vegetarians. In fact, the term “Pythagorean diet” was used instead of “vegetarian” for many years.
Many Greek philosophers were vegetarian, including the famous thinker Plato. He believed that a society that eats meat requires more doctors. Of course, we now know this to be true. He also said, "The gods created certain kinds of beings to replenish our bodies. ... They are the trees and the plants and the seeds."
3. Leonardo da Vinci
Like Pythagoras and Plato, Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian for ethical reasons. The lifelong inventor and artist famously said, “My body will not be a tomb for other creatures.”
4. Nikola Tesla
Another brainy vegetarian was Nikola Tesla. While he’s known for creating hundreds of electrical devices, he also spoke against animal cruelty: “Every effort should be made to stop the wanton, cruel slaughter of animals, which must be destructive to our morals.”
5. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Frankenstein author Mary Shelley was a vegetarian and a strong advocate for animal rights. In fact, in her novel Frankenstein’s monster is vegetarian. He explains his food choices: "My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid, to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment. … The picture I present to you is peaceful and human."
6. Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein, one of the most highly regarded scientists of all time, once said, "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
7. Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist known for refusing to give up her bus seat, was a vegetarian for over 40 years. In the book Positive Energy, doctor and author Judith Orloff includes an interview with Rosa Parks in which she says: “For over forty years, I’ve been vegetarian. Growing up, my family had little money—I had health problems early in life because of poor nutrition. Eating healthy is a priority for me.”
8. Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King was a champion for women, people of color, and the gay community, but she also spent the last 10 years of her life as a vegan because she knew that animal rights was a social justice issue too.
9. Mohandas Gandhi
OK, so maybe this one is well-known, but not including Mohandas Gandhi on our list would seem wrong. Gandhi wrote extensively about compassion for animals. He once said, "I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants."
10. Cesar Chavez
An influential labor leader and vegetarian, Cesar Chavez co-founded the National Farm Workers Association. In 1992 Chavez said:
We know we cannot defend and be kind to animals until we stop exploiting them—exploiting them in the name of science, exploiting animals in the name of sport, exploiting animals in the name of fashion, and yes, exploiting animals in the name of food.