Will Bill Clinton Remain Vegan?

Putting aside the fact that Bill Clinton isn’t really vegan anyway. He did admit on the CNN interview with him that he had a bit of Turkey last Thanksgiving. And he didn’t say anything really about eggs either. You can see a short snippet of this interview here.

I’ve been loathe to write about Bill Clinton’s foray into veganism or the vegan diet. Not only because it is been done to death from both sides of the vegan debate, but because he isn’t really vegan at all. And not only because he says that he eats a bit of turkey once in a while or that he didn’t mention eggs from what I can tell. See being vegan is not about diet alone. In fact, diet is only an aspect of the vegan diet.

Veganism is about ethics and about not using animals at all for human wants or needs. It’s based on the philosophical argument that animals have rights and that paramount amongst those rights is the right to be left alone or unencumbered. Gary Francione does a much better job of elucidating the vegan abolitionist approach which is the foundation of ethical veganism. In fact, it is the foundation of veganism period.

So when we speak of Bill Clinton’s veganism we are really speaking about his adherence to a strict vegetarian diet, as I’m sure the tie was silk and his suit was of wool in his interview with Sanjay Gupta. And using animal products such as silk and wool is not part of the vegan ethic.

So it becomes harder to speak of veganism as more and more public figures jump on the band wagon of what is really just strict vegetarianism. I’m for that. But I’m against muddying the waters of vegan ethics for PR spin and dog wagging. Pretty soon, the idea of veganism will be as vapid and insipid as what has become of the meaning of vegetarianism.

But as usual I digress. The real thrust of this post is whether Bill Clinton will adhere to a vegan or more specifically strict vegetarian diet. And I have my misgivings about that.

You see, the problem is with human selfishness and greed. And I am not using these terms harshly or to imply negatively that Bill Clinton is selfish. We are all selfish or self centered to a large degree. As an aside, I think this is where most of humanity’s problems stem from.

Nevertheless, because Bill Clinton is not really vegan, but rather trying to follow a strict vegetarian diet he will likely fail to be consistent. In fact, he has admitted to as much, by the fact that he eats turkey on occasion. Bill Clinton has changed his diet for health reasons. His life literally depends on it. In fact, ethics or concern for animals doesn’t come into it at all. At least I could find no mention of animal rights, ethics or animal suffering in any discussion of Bill Clinton’s dietary change to veganism/vegetarianism.

Most of us who have been long term vegans have met the ex-vegan or ex-vegetarian. Like the ex-spouse, this is a sad creature. The only reason they’ll give you, or the reason most often cited is that their health required the inclusion of meat. I’ll call bullshit on that, but that’s the reason they give.

You won’t often if ever hear of an ex-vegan who’ll come right out and say, you know what, I was wrong, I think it is perfectly ethically and right to kill animals and cause them suffering as we know do in our current agribusiness environment. You won’t hear that, because unless that person is a psychopath, we all know that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering.

At the end of the day folks, the best reason to become vegan is for animal rights. To step out of your own internal navel gazing and selfishness and to recognize that the suffering of animals can not and should not be condoned. And your strongest protest and testament to that is to go vegan. And you will have the shield of righteousness to protect you against any weakness and temptation to return to cruelty.

But if all you have is your own selfish reasons to become a strict vegetarian, then you will sway whichever way the wind of science suggests is the best approach for what ails ya.

But what really ails ya is a poverty of spirit. And that can only be enriched by embracing the larger world, embracing the golden rule to do unto others as you would have done unto you. And that includes doing unto animals what you would have done unto you.

I hope that Bill Clinton comes to embrace true veganism. His health will thank him for it and his spirit will rejoice. Now is always the time to embrace goodness and kindness even if only by taking the small and easy step of veganism. But unless he is willing to do that, he is likely to waiver in his commitment to strict vegetarianism and slip and stumble on his journey.

I would like to leave you with this quote that I swiped right off Gary Francione’s website Animal Rights:

If you are not vegan, please consider going vegan. It’s easy to go vegan; it’s better for your health and for the planet; and, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.

If you are vegan, educate everyone with whom you come in contact in a creative, nonviolent way about veganism. If we really do regard animals as members of the moral community; if we really believe that we cannot justify unnecessary animal suffering and death, then we cannot justify billions of animal death based on palate pleasure.

And please remember: veganism is not just a matter of reducing suffering; it’s a matter of fundamental moral justice. It is what we owe to those who, like us, value their lives and who want to continue to live.

Categorized as People


  1. “You won’t often if ever hear of an ex-vegan who’ll come right out and say, you know what, I was wrong, I think it is perfectly ethically and right to kill animals and cause them suffering as we know do in our current agribusiness environment. You won’t hear that, because unless that person is a psychopath, we all know that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering.”

    You’re ignoring the fact that not all meat comes from the “current agribusiness environment”. Does that throw a little wrench in your argument?


    There are several online former vegans who got very sick on the vegan diet and now eat meat from what THEY consider humane sources. The one at the link clearly explains that she once truly believed she didn’t need to eat animals to be healthy. After three years she has found out that’s not true. So if she needs to eat animals to be healthy, how can it be wrong to eat them? The lion needs meat and you don’t consider that wrong. Why is it wrong for a human who apparently can’t absorb and use fake vitamins/minerals? She made serious adjustments in her thinking and has been very public about it. voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/

    You know very well that the vegan diet is not bloodless. Animals die in the fields for the foods you eat and are poisoned around the big grain storage bins so you can have your cereal. Yet I’ve never seen a vegan admit it or offer regret over their deaths. Excuses, yes. They always have excuses and rationalizations, but no respect for the animals that died.

    1. No wrench in my argument. You sound like someone threatened by the infiltration that veganism is making into popular culture. We don’t need to eat flesh. No one does. No one. Anyone who thinks they do is lying to themselves. We are not true carnivores like lions that you bring up.

      Right and wrong and ethics is about morality and having choice and the ability to analyses those choices. We can’t say that a lion has that ability. And if you want to go out and eat meat, then do it like the lion does. No tools, nothing but your hands and mouth. No wires, traps or guns knives etc. Then tell me how much meat composes your diet.

      Regardless, you like many people trying to argue against the truth use strawman fallacies. The thrust of my argument was not where all meat comes from, though I’d bet less than a few percent of meat is obtained by killing “pasture” or “humane”, “organic” meat. My argument was that it is morally wrong to kill animals for nothing more than our own selfish infantile tastes. No one needs meat as I said before, regardless of the bullshit ideas and reasons they or their doctors come up with to try and assuage the guilt.

      You say there are several ex-vegans, likely hundreds, regardless, there are many more ex-omnivores becoming vegan everyday. Many people are selfish, greedy and self serving, doesn’t mean they’re honest or truthful.

      I also never said that the vegan diet was bloodless, but these many “animals” that die in the fields are over blown. I’d like to see real documented scientific evidence to back up your claims. Sure, I’m sure there are likely rodents or other animals that are poisoned by pesticides or whatever other methods are used to obtain food. However, I’m sure you eat cereals and vegetables and fruit too. I’m talking about lowering the suffering and deaths of animals and putting and end to having other people kill animals so we can just become the living graves of their murdered bodies.

      Anyway you want to slice it (pun intended) there is more blood on your hands than mine. You’ve got to live with that. I think I’ll leave you with this old Jain scholars insight:

      “Those who eat the meat of other [living beings] in order to satisfy their own flesh, they are definitely murderers [themselves], since without a consumer [there can be] no killer.”
      — Acharya Hemacandra (12th c. Jain ascetic/scholar)

  2. Just a very brief comment to Daisy re: “the ex vegan who became sick being a vegan” – no-one becomes sick eating a nutritionally balanced vegan diet. A very poor excuse to change one’s diet!

    1. Thanks Pat,

      I agree. I don’t think folks have tried hard enough. Not that’s hard, you just gotta be smart about it.

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