How Woody Harrelson Became a Vegan Icon

How Woody Harrelson Became a Vegan Icon

American actor and playwright Woody Harrelson is known for a wide range of iconic roles. He played Katniss’ mentor in “The Hunger Games” series, eccentric Larry Flint in 1996’s “The People vs. Larry Flint,” and supervillain Cletus Kasady in 2018’s “Venom.”

Most recently, he hit headlines for his performance as a wide-eyed Wimbledon fan. The actor caught the attention of a number of Twitter-users for his amusing facial expressions throughout the legendary tennis tournament. He even prompted one person to Tweet, “I don’t watch tennis, I watch Woody Harrelson watching tennis.”

But outside of acting (and making the news for his wide-range of entertaining facial expressions at tennis matches), Harrelson has another passion — animal rights and veganism.

According to former “The Hunger Games” co-star Liam Hemsworth — who played Gale Hawthorn in the franchise and also eats a plant-based diet — Harrelson has followed a vegan lifestyle for around 30 years. Hemsworth told Men’s Fitness, “Woody Harrelson was actually one of the original reasons I became vegan, because he’s been vegan for, I don’t know, 30 years or something.”

Hemsworth is one of many celebrities to go vegan after working with Harrelson. The compassionate actor frequently speaks out on behalf of animal rights and calls for legislative change; he works with vegan chefs and campaigns to encourage people to eat more plant-based foods, and he has also spoken out about the physical benefits of following a vegan diet. Here are all the reasons why Harrelson is the ultimate vegan.

How Woody Harrelson Became a Vegan Icon


Woody Harrelson wrote to the Texas state governor asking for a pig rodeo to be banned.

1. He Writes Letters to Officials About Animal Rights

Harrelson doesn’t just speak about veganism, he actively tries to make a difference for the animals through letters and campaigns, too. Back in May, he joined with animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to try and put an end to a “pig rodeo” in Texas.

For the past 17 years, Bandera has held “the Bacon Bash,” which involves a wild hog catch. The animals are grabbed and tormented, according to PETA, causing them great distress and trauma. Harrelson — a Texas-native — was shocked by the event and wrote to the state governor Gregg Abbott asking for it to be banned.

“I have a lot of pride in my home state and the compassionate, independent spirit of my fellow Texans,” he wrote. “That’s why I was shocked to learn about the cruelty that pigs are subjected to at something called the ‘Bacon Bash’ held near Bandera.” He continued, “this violent spectacle encourages children and adults alike to scare, injure, and torment animals for entertainment. The world doesn’t need more bullies.”

Together with Million Dollar Vegan, Harrelson campaigned for the pope to go vegan.

2. He Tried to Turn the Pope Vegan

PETA isn’t the only vegan organization Harrelson supports. Back at the beginning of 2019, the actor became involved with Million Dollar Vegan — a campaign that works to engage some of the world’s most influential leaders with issues surrounding the climate crisis, world hunger, and animal rights, in the hope of creating real positive change.

Together with musician Paul McCartney, fellow actors Joaquin Phoenix and Evanna Lynch, and plant-based physician Dr.Neal Barnard, among many other celebrities, Harrelson asked the pope to go vegan for Lent.

There’s no news yet on whether the religious leader will adopt the diet (he didn’t opt to ditch meat for Lent), but the campaign helped to raise awareness around the issue, with 40 members of European Parliament becoming involved with Million Dollar Vegan back in March.

Woody Harrelson wrote the forward for Chad and Derek Sarno’s first book. | Chad and Derek Sarno

3. He Works Closely With Vegan Chefs to Promote Sustainable Food

The actor is friends with vegan chefs and Wicked Healthy founders Derek and Chad Sarno. He has employed Chad as a personal chef on a number of occasions and even wrote the forward for the brothers’ first-ever cookbook “Wicked Healthy. Free. From. Animals.” He wrote, “Chad and Derek are doing some incredible work. They are at the forefront of a plant-based food movement that’s been building for decades and now is becoming a tsunami.”

“Not a bad day, when doing what you love brings you these moments with friends that happen to be absolute legends,” Derek wrote at the time of the book’s release, accompanied by a photo of himself with Harrelson. “So grateful for all of Woody’s support with the book, writing the forward and for being such a legendary plant pusher.”

Thandie Newton spoke out against foie gras after Woody Harrelson turned her vegan. | Wikimedia Commons

4. He Turns His Co-Stars Vegan

Besides Hemsworth, Harrelson has turned a number of fellow actors vegan, including Thandie Newton, who starred in 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” In an interview alongside Harrelson, she said, “I think it’s good to have a vegan in the mix. A vegan in a position of power. I have been vegan since working with Woody.”

The interviewer asks, “you’re one of the coverts?” To which Newton responds,  “Yes. Literally. The past four months, it’s been four months.” She humorously added, “It hasn’t done anything to my brain, I’m absolutely fine. Thank you so much. It hasn’t done anything.”

Newton has since gone on to speak up for the animals. Last September, she asked for the sale and import of foie gras to be banned in the UK. The production is already illegal. “The law should reflect that if it’s too cruel to produce here, we shouldn’t welcome cruelty from elsewhere,” she said in a statement at the time.

“Stranger Things” star Sadie Sink also credits Harrelson with turning her vegan, when she worked with him on 2005’s “The Glass Castle.” She told Just Jared in 2017, “I am a passionate vegan. I actually was a vegetarian for about a year and when I was working on ‘The Glass Castle’ with Woody Harrelson, he and his family inspired me to become a vegan.” In a recent interview with Elle, she elaborated, “his daughter and I had a three-day sleepover. The entire time I was with them I felt good about what I was eating, and not like I was missing anything.”

5. He Joined With Paul McCartney to Encourage Consumers to Go Meat-Free

In 2017, Harrelson joined with former Beatle, music legend, and co-founder of vegetarian movement Meat Free Mondays Paul McCartney, to encourage consumers to ditch meat just one day a week. The actor appeared in “One Day A Week.” The short, environmental film — narrated by McCartney himself — explained the meat industry’s impact on the planet.

“It’s time to ask ourselves the question, what can I as an individual do to help [the environment]?” asks McCartney in the film, alongside Harrelson, actor Emma Stone, and his two daughters, Mary and Stella McCartney. “There’s a simple but significant way to help protect the planet and all its inhabitants. And it starts with just one day a week. One day without eating animal products can have a huge impact in helping maintain that delicate balance that sustains us all.”

He says raw vegan food gives him energy. | Woody Harrelson

6. He Talks About the Physical Benefits of Going Vegan

Following a vegan lifestyle is not just about the environment and animal rights for Harrelson. He has also spoken about the physical impact of eating plant-based foods. In the lead up to the release of “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” he explained to InStyle, “I eat vegan, but I mostly eat raw. If I have a cooked meal, I feel my energy drop. So when I first started shifting my diet, it wasn’t as much a moral or an ethical pursuit but an energetic pusuit.”

According to InStyle, Harrelson’s diet also keeps him looking youthful“Prior to our interview, he shuffles out of the house, sticks his head into the pool, and then heads straight for a vegan repast: salad, avocado, tahini, hummus, seed crackers, all of which must be contributing to the [then] 56-year-old looking about 45,” the magazine observed. Later they said to the actor, “you look good! Is it that vegan life? You legitimately don’t seem to age.” In response, he said, “diet is crucial.”

Woody Harrelson recently went on a friend date with Benedict Cumberbatch to a vegan restaurant in London. | Woody Harrelson

7. He Makes Everyone Want to Go Vegan Just By Living His Life

Harrelson raises awareness about the environmental and ethical aspects of veganism. But he also makes the lifestyle seem appealing and fun. He recently shared an image on Instagram of himself hanging out with fellow vegan actor Benedict Cumberbatch in London at vegan restaurant Farmacy. What sounds more fun than that? He also plays and promotes vegan board games (how about a game with Cumberbatch and Harrelson, sounds like a wild time, right?), and he even invested in the first-ever organic vegan beer garden. Cumberbatch, Harrelson, board games, and an organic beer garden — could you cope with that level of fun?