What's Behind the Likes of A Listers Like Bill Clinton, Russell Simmons, and Alec Baldwin Going Vegan?

The food revolution is encouraging people to wake up and look more closely at where their food comes from and how it will affect their health.

The days of Alicia Silverstone and Moby being the most high-profile vegans are over. A new article in Business Week chronicles "The Rise of Power Vegans." Those on the list include Bill Clinton; Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn; publisher and real estate billionaire Mort Zuckerman; Def Jams founder Russell Simmons, Ford Executive Chairman of the Board Bill Ford; Twitter co-founder Biz Stone; Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, and the likes of Alec Baldwin and Mike Tyson, too.

Business Week reports:


It shouldn't be surprising that so many CEOs are shunning meat, dairy, and eggs: It's an exclusive club. Only 1 percent of the U.S. population is vegan, partly because veganism isn't cheap: The cost comes from the value of specialty products made by speciality companies with cloying names (tofurkey, anyone?). Vegans also have to be powerful enough to even know what veganism is.

Sure there aren't a lot of vegans, but I take issue with the fact the veganism isn't cheap -- I lived much of my high school and college days as a vegan and spent very little money. What seems most expensive is good quality meat, eggs, cheese and fish. And not all vegans rely on Tofurkey to get by -- there are plenty of grains, veggies, and legumes that are delicious and inexpensive.

According the article Wynn has worked to convince his employees of the benefits of veganism, mostly because he has to pick up the tab for their health care costs. "If I can keep them healthier, I'm acting like a smart businessman," he says in the article.

There's the health factor, then there is the spouse factor. As the article reports:


According to Bart Potenza, co-owner of Manhattan power vegan restaurant Candle 79, the rise of the power vegan coincides with the rise of the vegan second wife.

And there's themorality factor:


In 2000, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone went to visit Farm Sanctuary, an animal rescue organization with a location in upstate New York, and returned a vegan. So far it hasn't hurt business. "My meal companions are sometimes curious at most," says Stone, "but never judgmental." Though that tends to happen when you run a company with an estimated value of more than one billion dollars.

Ultimately, the writer of this piece seems to dismiss the decision to go vegan as the next way for powerful people to stand out from the crowd, writing, "And herein lies veganism's appeal to moguls: It affords them the opportunity to control their own health with the same manic id with which they control everything else. ... This latest show of power, in other words, gives them all the more time to enjoy the Swiss chalet and the private jet."

Seems to me that the writer might be missing the bigger picture here in terms of the food revolution that is encouraging people to wake up and look more closely at where their food comes from and how it will affect their health.

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.
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