With the US eating over 50 billion hamburgers a year and farmers in Brazil chopping down the Amazon rainforest to farm more cattle, British wildlife biologist Liz Bonnin investigates the impact of meat production on the world in the alarming documentary Meat: A Threat To The Planet?.
Within the first 10 seconds of the doccie, the answer to the title is an easy yes. The meat industry produces more greenhouse emissions than all modes of transport like cars, planes and ships combined.
That’s because people eat 65 billion animals a year. In the past 50 years, the cow population has increased by 400 million, bringing the total number of cows to 1.5 billion. The number of chickens farmed is also at an all-time high as there are now 20 million chickens reared around the globe, compared to the 4 million half a century ago. Liz estimates that humanity has only 12 years to halt the effects of climate change before we reach a tipping point into global catastrophe – and that the best way to do so is to cut down on 90% of the beef, pork and chicken that we consume.
Some surprising celebrities have already taken a step towards saving the world by going vegan. Whether it is for personal, health or ethical reasons, they all have a one thing in common: They’ve never felt more energised and happier to be playing their part at saving the planet.
Taraji P. Henson
A health scare in 2017 was enough for actress Taraji P. Henson (49) to go vegan and never look back. For weeks, she experienced sharp abdominal pains while filming historical movie Best Of Enemies (2018), and she eventually went for a check-up. “It took a doctor in Georgia to tell me that if I don’t change what I was doing [an unhealthy diet], I was going to get stomach cancer,” says Taraji. “I immediately said, ‘Say no more.’ I wanted to live. I feel so much better now,” adds Taraji.
The Oscar-nominated actress’s plant-based lifestyle is worlds apart from her ex-convict character, Cookie, on musical drama Empire. When she was released from prison in the pilot episode in 2015, Cookie barged into her son Jamal’s (Jussie Smollett) apartment, went straight into the kitchen and helped herself to a piece of braised chicken. “Who stews chicken?” she mumbled, while adding more seasoning to the drumstick.
Popularly known for his roles on British drama Sherlock Holmes, as the titular character, and Marvel franchise films as Dr Strange, actor Benedict Cumberbatch (43) adapted a vegan diet in 2018 for personal motives. To get a lean superhero body for his role in the film Avengers: Infinity War (2018), he solely relied on a plant-based diet.
For Benedict, caring for the planet isn’t just about what goes into his body. He refused to wear any leather items during a photoshoot with British GQ magazine in 2018, opting for a more conscious pair of vegan boots and a wool suit. The bold move earned him a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) award as the Most Beautiful Vegan in the same year, alongside film and television director Ava DuVernay.
Will. I. Am
Like Taraji, musician and The Voice UK’s witty and fashionable judge William James Adams aka Will.I.Am (45) went vegan for health concerns. He’d just filmed S6 of the music competition in 2017, when he wasn’t feeling like his usual jovial self. “I went to the doctor and he said that I have high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” says the musician. “He told me that he was going to give me pills but I declined. I didn’t want to take medicine for something that I could control,” explains Will.I.Am.
In just a matter of weeks, his health was under control. He got rid of all the meat in his fridge and replaced it with fresh fruit and vegetables. “For many years I’d go to sleep and wake up tired. That’s because my body was processing who knows what type of wicked food,” explains Will.I.Am. “There’s a dark force out there that is doing a very good job of keeping us all sick,” he adds.
There’s a popular perception that vegans are weak and weedy looking. But to stay on top of her game, 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams (38) switched to a strict meat-free diet in 2017 while she was still breastfeeding her daughter Alexis Olympia. The athlete needed to get in shape for the Wimbledon tennis tournament, which took place 10 months after she’d given birth. She managed to shed the baby weight, 4kg in a week, to be exact and “it was crazy! I just kept dropping,” says Serena. Although she didn’t walk away with the title and placed second in the tournament, she has stuck to the plant-based lifestyle.
Serena first went vegan in 2011, after her tennis player sister Venus’s (40) diagnosis with a rare autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome, which causes excessive fatigue. Doctors advised Venus to change her eating habits and to show support, Serena joined her older sister’s raw vegan diet that included juicing fruits and eating plenty of legumes. Back then, the sisters would cheat though, and included chicken in some of their meals. “I refer to it as being chegan,” jokes Venus.
Rooney and Kate Mara
Rounding off the list is another accomplished sister duo: actresses Rooney (35) and Kate Mara (37). They refrain from meat for simple reasons: to make the world a better place, while choosing healthier food options. “I’ve been vegan for seven years. At first, I found it hard to give up cheese because I loved it so much. I haven’t missed meat at all, though,” says Kate. “I decided to go vegan after reading a 2011 book called The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder. It discusses ways our bodies aren’t meant to digest animal products and what we should be eating instead: plants. I've always had a pretty sensitive stomach, and since my diet change, I felt great,” adds Kate.
Rooney, on the hand, has been following a plant-based diet since high school. She even launched her own cruelty-free fashion line in February 2018 after she couldn’t find a pair of faux leather military boots that were as stylish as they were sustainable. “There were so many things I couldn’t wear any more, and I couldn’t find an alternative. [MY brand] Hiraeth came out of my own necessity,” says Rooney.
Watch Meat: A Threat To The Planet? on Catch Up
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