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Influential Vegetarians in History: Musicians

In this addition of Influential Vegetarians in History, we take a look at two musicians from contrasting backgrounds and opposing generations. On the surface, Paul McCartney and Mike Ness could not appear any more different. One was as a founding father of the “Fab Four,” while the other was giving everyone “The Creeps” as the in-your-face front man of Social Distortion. But where these two men differ in sound and style, they share a compassionate commonality in their mutual love for animals and the environment. Let’s take a closer look at these guitar playing greats, and their immense influence as vegetarians.

Paul McCartney

Exploding into international superstardom at the tender age of twenty-two, McCartney—along with band mates George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon—overtook the world with “Beatle mania” in 1962. From their initial appearance on the Ed Sullivan show all the way through Abbey Road and Let it Be, The Beatles achieved unprecedented levels of popularity before disbanding in 1970; they are now the most lucrative band in history, having sold over a billion units worldwide. Following his days with the Beatles, McCartney continued his success, releasing hit records with his group Wings and performing as a solo artist. He continues to sell out concerts while touring worldwide to this day.

McCarthy has had a storied history with philanthropy and social activism and has raised money for various relief organizations around the world by lending his music to charitable recordings and performing live benefit concerts. After making the moral decision to become a vegetarian, McCartney quickly used his celebrity status and resources to encourage others to follow his lead. McCartney’s famous words, “If the meat industry had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian,” are described by PETA{1} as “the most well-known quote in the animal rights movement,” and serve as the title for a video McCartney narrated for the company which exposes the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals within the meat industry, as well as the dangers presented to consumers due to a common lack of sanitation in slaughterhouses and factories.

Mike Ness

The front man and founder of monumental punk rock band, Social Distortion, Mike Ness has been making waves in the music world since 1979, and shows no signs of slowing down. While a staple of the underground punk scene throughout the 1980’s, Social Distortion exploded into the mainstream in the early nineties with the success of singles like “Ball and Chain” and “Story of My Life.” Their popularity has only spread in the past decade, with their music being featured in major films like the Breakup and the video game, Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater Underground. Ness has performed as a solo artist and collaborated with some of his own heroes, recording with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Brian Setzer.

Like McCartney, Ness has used his role as a celebrity to encourage others to take up an ethically sound lifestyle, and in 2009 appeared in the “Meat’s Not Green” campaign in conjunction with PETA{2}, stating, “I feel a responsibility to try to make the world a better place. The more educated I have become about the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals, becoming a vegetarian was a no brainer.” After over thirty years of intense touring, Ness knows more than anyone the wear and tear the road can place on you. Since becoming a vegetarian, Ness says that “I feel stronger, healthier, and cleaner.”

Enduring Ethics and Timeless Rebellion

Bridging the gap between the British invasion of the 1960’s and the Orange County hardcore explosion the 1980’s, McCartney and Ness show us that while the stage can be a center for entertainment and an escape from daily life, it can simultaneously be used as a platform for ethical education and world improvement that transcends all generations.

For more information check out:

{1} “Sir Paul McCartney Narrates ‘Glass Walls.;” Web. 9.15.2012

{2} The Story of Mike Ness’ Animal-Friendly Life. Web. 9.14.2012

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