The 15 Most Influential Vegans of All Time

The 15 Most Influential Vegans of All Time

Time to Read: 8 minutes


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Eating isn’t the wild, out-of-the-ordinary choice it used to be.

While it’s gained ground as a lifestyle choice in recent years, however, it’s also the kind of lifestyle where users want to spread the wealth, so to speak.

Luckily for us, then, there are actually many influential vegans put there espousing the benefits of this lifestyle.

With so much to learn, after all, the more people know, the better.

Join us, today, as we take a look at our top fifteen vegan influencers, and how they’ve helped to bring this lifestyle to their fans and followers.

1. Ellen Degeneres

Possibly one of the most widely recognized faces in modern pop culture, Ellen Degeneres is a household name around the world.

She’s also an animal lover and vegan, which puts her high on our list of influential vegans.

Degeneres changed her mind when it came to animal food products after watching the 2005 documentary, Earthlings.

“I do it because I love animals and I saw the reality, and I just couldn’t ignore it anymore,” said DeGeneres of her commitment to the vegan lifestyle.

As a member of the community, she hosts a vegan blog on her show’s website and has put plans in place to open a vegan restaurant. She follows a vegan diet along with her wife, Portia de Rossi, and the influence she has as a television personality makes her a strong leader as a vegan.

2. Russell Simmons

Simmons is the famous co-founder of Def Jam records and successful mogul. With an estimated $325 million net worth and a laundry list of successful ventures to his name, to call him “influential” is an understatement.

So it’s good news he’s also been vegan since 1999.

Simmons advocates for animal rights, as well as the associated environmental and health benefits of a vegan diet. Combining his fame with support for groups like PETA (as well as many others), Simmons is a true champion for social change.

3. Bill Clinton

The former US president is perhaps best associated with food in that Saturday Night Live famously satirized him as a Big Mac lover. But, after an early retirement dotted with a few health scares, Bill Clinton went vegan in 2010.

While he isn’t known for his work within the vegan community, as a former US president, he is a role model to young and new vegans.

4. Alicia Silverstone

Alicia Silverstone’s star rose in the ’90s thanks to her starring role in the movie Clueless. While she hasn’t stopped acting, she has also directed a lot of her energy towards creating a vegan enterprise on the back of her book, “The Kind Diet”.

This vegan cooking guide topped the New York Times bestseller list. The release of the associated lifestyle and food website helped to spread her influence to even more readers.

She’s also a campaigner for veganism, having petitioned for vegan prison meals for Russian prisoners. She’s appeared naked for PETA veganism campaigns and has been an outspoken supporter of the lifestyle since adopting it in 1998.

5. Ingrid Newkirk

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (or PETA, as you probably know it) is one of the largest and most well-known animal rights groups on the planet.

Ingrid Newkirk happens to be its President and Co-Founder.

As you might expect, she’s a staunch animal rights activist. She spends a lot of time at conferences and public speaking engagement, promoting vegan beliefs. She’s also a persuasive and engaging vegan activist, having helped bring many people over to a more ethical way of eating.

When it comes to influential vegans, it’s hard to beat the founder of a global animal rights group.

6. Angela Davis

As one of the most famous protesters in modern history, Angela Davis ranks high on several lists of influential activists.

Influential vegans, it’s no surprise, is one of those lists.

“Sentient beings endure pain and torture as they are transformed into food for profit. Food that generates disease in humans whose poverty compels them to rely on McDonald’s and KFC for nourishment,” said Davis of eating meat.

Though this is only one of her causes, her popularity and public speaking arrangements give her a bigger voice for veganism than most.

7. Hannah Howlett

If you haven’t heard of her, yet, Hannah Howlett is the American vegan vlogger who first caused a stir in 2014 when she lost 60lbs on a vegan potato diet. Documenting her dramatic weight loss on YouTube, Howlett shed body fat eating carb-heavy potatoes.

She followed up her success in 2016 with Lean & Clean, a published book of plant-based recipes for healthy living. She motivates her YouTube followers to live healthy lifestyles and hosts a plant-based food website, as well.

8. Caldwell Esselstyn

Caldwell Esselstyn is an American physician and author, known for campaigning for plant-based diets.

His vision is a diet that eschews animal products, oils, and certain nuts, as well as soybeans and avocados. It’s also an eating plan advocated by another member of this list: former US President Bill Clinton. It’s no wonder, given that the diet is also aimed at stopping and reversing coronary artery disease through its whole food content.

He’s also been featured in popular healthy eating documentaries. He’s both a well-known figure and one of the most influential vegans out there.

9. Daniel Bissonnette

The saying “Out of the mouth of babes” means, sometimes, young, inexperienced people have the best understanding of things.

Daniel Bissonnette is a great example of this idea.

At 12 years old and already a keynote speaker at health shows across Canada, Bissonnette is passionate about healthy eating.

With a best-selling book to his name and over 100 professional presentations, this is one young vegan with a lot of influence.

10. The Williams Sisters

It’s safe to say, there are few names in professional sports as well known as Serena and Venus Williams.

But you may not have known that, in 2011, the sisters switched to a vegan lifestyle, after Venus was diagnosed with Sj?gren’s syndrome. This is an autoimmune disease that affected the older sister’s energy levels and gave her chronic joint pain.

Recently both Williams sisters gave their support to Silk, a plant-based milk alternative, as well.

11. Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix is about as public an animal rights supporter as it’s possible to get. From his work as an animal rights activist to narrating animal rights documentaries as an artist, he’s a celebrity who uses his art as a means for change.

He’s also been outspoken about his veganism, lending his voice, again, to the 2003 Disney movie Brother Bear, which has the topic at its core.

12. Neil Barnard

When it comes to influential physicians in the vegan field, Neil Barnard is a name to look out for.

Barnard is an advocate for higher health standards in the research field. He’s also penned an avalanche of fantastic books on vegan nutrition and healthy living. He’s considered by many to be an extremely important advocate for vegan living, and pillar in the vegan movement.

13. John Robbins

In a movement like veganism, where education is so important, influential authors are very important.

Enter John Robbins, one of the foremost influential vegans around.

John Robbins is one of the biggest voices in the vegan conversation, having authored Diet for a New America, and several other books. His work has brought him a huge list of awards, owing to his intelligent, blunt approach to vegan activism.

14. T. Colin Campbell

T. Colin Campbell is another juggernaut in the vegan research community.

Specializing in the effects of plant-based nutrition on long-term health, his book, The China Study has had a lasting effect on veganism. Taking his expertise further than the written word, Campbell was also featured in the 2011 documentary, Forks Over Knives.

While it’s true that Campbell has retired from his former position as a biochemist, he certainly hasn’t let it slow down his research. Campbell heads up the T. Colin Campbell Center For Nutrition Studies. This makes him an easy pick for any list of influential vegans, and a hero in the community.

15. Erik Marcus

Erik Marcus’ spot on our list of influential vegans is well deserved, to say the least.

He’s the publisher of vegan.com. He’s the author of The Ultimate Vegan Guide: Compassionate Living Without Sacrifice and Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, and Money. He’s a blogger, chef, and public speaker, having made appearances encouraging awareness of the dangers of the meat industry.

With his focus on balanced veganism, he encourages people to pursue veganism by “crowding out” meat with healthier food.

Veganism: There’s Something In It For Everyone

Animal-friendly diets are enjoying a bit of a renaissance in recent years.

Living a vegan lifestyle used to be something a lot more exclusive than it is, now. With online resources and better education, more people are discovering the benefits of this diet, every day.

But bringing on new people to a healthy lifestyle means being committed to spreading information, as far as you can. And that’s where influential vegans like the ones we’ve mentioned today do their best work.

Interested in learning more about veganism and animal-friendly living? Share with us in the comments section below!

About the author

Julia Ott
Hi! I'm Julia and I'm a junior developer, vegan recipe inventor, furniture collector and mum to a little boy. I've been a vegetarian for 20 years, and a vegan for 3. I spend all of my spare time visiting farmers markets, searching for antiques at flea markets and cooking up a vegan storm in the kitchen! I co-founded Vegan.io to make the world a better place.

Want to try a vegan diet?

We created a meal planner app to help you! Get your fresh customized meal plan full of delicious, quick, budget friendly, healthy recipes.

GET YOUR MEAL PLAN!