Hegans: How do they change the face of veganism?

by L Matthews on November 7, 2010

celebrity vegan Bill clinton

No more MaccyDs for Bill Clinton

In recent weeks a number of heavy duty manly men have come out in support of veganism. Is this the advent of a new-style vegan, and an image makeover for those adopting such a lifestyle?

The new ‘hegan’ (don’t shoot me, I didn’t make up the hideous moniker!) is a far cry from the stereotypical anaemic, pasty, weakling vegan nibbling nuts and munching alfalfa sprouts whilst taking care not to step on ants or swat away that annoying fly. These are superhero vegans… Bill Clinton, Russell Simmons, and Steve Wynn are recent coverts. They are men’s men, and they are saying it’s not only ok to be vegan, it’s a damned good choice for your health. They may not be proclaiming the ethical benefits of veganism (yet), or the environmental advantages, but it’s a start.

Wynn became vegan seemingly overnight after his friend Gulu Lalvani made him watch Eating, a meat-free, oil-free diet documentary by Mike Anderson. “I watched it, and I changed the next morning,” says Wynn. “Bang! Just like that.”

Celebrity vegans Steve WynnUnlike many newly converted vegans who may at first struggle with the change in diet, Wynn had a peculiar advantage… being on a yacht with a personal chef. Nice huh? Back on dry land and Wynn bought 10,000 copies of Eating to give to each employee with the rationale that “If they’re sick, we’re picking up the tab… If I can keep them healthier, I’m acting like a smart businessman.”

Veganism for Health

Health is definitely the main focus of the new hegans. As a smart CEO, politician or general public persona it has become increasingly important for men to (continue to) look healthy into their forties, fifties and sixties. Bill Clinton had major heart issues, and it was this that prompted him to read The China Study and become vegan. It is no longer a straightforward association of virility with meat-consumption as it has been traditionally in many cultures. Men, and women, are beginning to realise that it is possible to be strong, powerful, clear-headed, and athletic on a plant-based diet, and that doing so also avoids a number of health problems, particularly later in life. Athletes like Brendan Brazier, author of Thrive Fitness, is a medal-winning triathlete, and ultra-marathon runner, and he has been a proud exponent of his vegan diet for years now, along with other weightlifters, bodbuilders, cyclists, and even Olympic skiers!

Do Celebrity Vegans Persuade Others to Go Vegan?

This radical transformation in a few high-level businessman, politicians, and sports people (Mike Tyson is also vegan apparently), is not going to convince all men everywhere instantly that veganism is the way to a healthy and strong body, but it might be a start in fracturing the association in our culture of animal flesh with masculinity. If the rise of the hegans can take off sufficiently over the coming years then perhaps some of the calamitous consequences of the increasing consumption of meat in China, India, and other Eastern countries on the environment can be allayed. The association between money and meat consumption is also challenged by these new converts as they are usually moneyed and powerful. What they are saying, whether they mean it or not, is that meat is not a sign of opulence and conspicuous consumption any longer.

Vegan Politicians Making Waves

Dennis Kucinich, a politician who was in line for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2004 was considered too weird as a vegan to receive the nomination. “People weren’t sure if it was another political party or an ethnic group they’d never heard of,” Kucinich said at the time. He’s now managed to persuade the Head of the Committee for House Administration to include vegan options in the congressional cafeteria, and is writing a vegan diet book. Maybe he can sell one to Clinton…

Another facet to this recent explosion of pro-vegan hegans is attributed to some by the number of CEOs and high-profile men with second wives who are vegan, or very nearly vegan. Kucinich turned vegan for love, Rupert Murdoch and former Viacom (VIA) CEO Tom Freston both have pro-vegan wives; they aren’t vegan yet… but most likely they are on their way. The association between feminism and veganism has been discussed elsewhere on TheTastyVegan, and perhaps this is a further indication, and reinforcement, of that relationship.

Is Veganism Elitist?

Whilst it’s a great thing that all these men are turning vegan and making the choice more mainstream by association, one consideration is the expense argument. To many veganism can seem elitist and difficult, unless you have a personal chef. A large number of people think that to be vegan you must spend all your days tracking down expensive tempeh burgers, and niche ingredients that cost more than a days wages for some. Clearly this isn’t true, veganism is usually cheaper than an omnivorous diet. Just as an omnivorous CEO living the highlife might spend thousands each year on expensive cuisine, a vegan CEO could easily do the same. It doesn’t mean that all the omnivores, or all the vegans, in the world have to do the same. Let’s hope that these hegans don’t accidentally reinforce that stereotype whilst smashing another so effectively.


The Rise of the Power Vegans, Joel Stein, Bloomsberg Business, November 4, 2010.

Men Leave Their Own Mark on Veganism
, Boston.com, Kathleen Pierce, March 24, 2010.

Healthy Snacks with NutsOnline!

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Leave a Comment

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber Shea @Almost Vegan November 19, 2010 at 07:52

I’m loving this rise of “heganism.” My boyfriend Matt actually wrote a guest post on my blog about how I inadvertently turned him “hegan” 😛

admin November 19, 2010 at 08:09

The post by your boyfriend is really sweet. I’d never be able to get my partner to guest blog! Good work.

Heganism is an interesting one, makes me wonder if it’ll be a short-lived media flurry, or a genuine change in the way veganism is seen in mass culture. With the links between feminism, sexism, vegetarianism, and veganism, there’s definite potential for a massive upheaval in roles, gender restrictions, and expectations here. Exciting times!

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