Why is Joe Rogan obsessed with criticizing the vegan diet?
Critics of the vegan diet are far and wide. Anyone calling themselves a vegan has likely experienced it at one point or another (especially if you brought a Tofurky to an otherwise traditional Thanksgiving feast). But what’s Joe Rogan’s deal with it? The comedian and podcast host digs into it almost more than anyone. Why?
While Rogan may be routinely vocal about his criticisms of the vegan diet, he’s certainly not alone in his disdain.
Most recently, there’s Piers Morgan, the British television host who spit out the new Greggs vegan sausage on air, launching insults at the bakery chain despite the product being its most successful new product launch in history. Morgan also got into a public Twitter battle with a now-former vegan critic himself, chef Gordon Ramsay, over the new Greggs launch. Unlike Morgan, Ramsay has come full circle, changing his tone about vegans and vegan food in general. Although he still eats and serves meat, the chef experimented with new menu items during Veganuary and added vegan options to all of his restaurant menus.
There’s also Jordan Peterson, the controversial University of Toronto psychology professor who reportedly now eats an exclusively meat-based diet (literally: meat and water). He’s also criticized vegans despite the known human health and environmental benefits of switching to a plant-based diet.
Even Arby’s, the meaty “we have the meats” fast-food chain that was reportedly in discussions with Impossible Foods to roll out a meat-free option, did a back peddle with its president saying the chain would “never” go vegan.
But what about Joe Rogan? He’s controversial on a lot of topics. But he’s especially aggressive when it comes to veganism and his vegan guests, even if they don’t bring up their diet first. Rogan has repeatedly claimed he’s not “anti-vegan”, but he frequently encourages his vegan guests to eat animals for the sake of their health. He recently told vegan-turned-vegetarian-turned-vegan-again comedian Russell Brand that he needed eggs in his diet after they both agreed pushing personal beliefs isn’t really beneficial to anyone.
“My morality and my spirituality is for me,” Brand said to Rogan. “It’s not something I go around inflicting on other people and telling them how they should behave.” Rogan agreed, saying “we should all be more like that.” But then later, in the same episode, Rogan told Brand he’d be “better” by adding animal protein into his diet.
Vegan Diet and Health
Rogan may have made these comments without regarding the growing number of data proving otherwise. One needn’t look further than the world’s leading athletes — a number of whom dominate their respective disciplines on a vegan or mostly plant-based diet: 5-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton; 23 grand slam title tennis star Serena Williams; six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady; and ultramarathoner Rich Roll all achieve great success without meat. Even the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has cut his meat intake way down to improve his health.
Athletes like these are the focus of the forthcoming documentary “Game Changers,” produced by vegan filmmaker James Cameron and directed by Academy award-winning activist filmmaker Louis Psihoyos (2009’s “The Cove”).
“Game Changers” follows special forces athlete James Wilks as he meets with the world’s top vegan athletes, discussing how their performance improved after reducing animal products from their diets. The film looks at a number of factors, speaks with experts, doctors, and scientists to better understand the impact a vegan diet has on athletic performance. If someone like Lewis Hamilton — only the 3rd driver to win 5 Formula 1 world titles — can do it while vegan, what does that say for the rest of us? Does anyone really need to eat meat to thrive?
There are other benefits to going vegan, too: studies have connected the diet with increased life span, and it’s been linked to decreasing the risk of certain chronic illnesses like heart diseases and diabetes. Filmmaker Kevin Smith — who has appeared on Rogan’s show — recovered from a massive heart attack by going vegan. His doctor more than halved his cholesterol medication in under a year post-episode. Smith has kept the weight off since his heart attack on a vegan diet, too. And while he was motivated for health reasons, initially, he’s also become an outspoken voice for compassion toward animals. Along with his daughter and vegan inspiration, Harley Quinn, Smith spoke up for animals in a recent Thanksgiving campaign, encouraging people to choose an animal-free dinner instead.
Television talk show host Steve Harvey recently revealed he’s made the shift to a vegan diet as well for health reasons. He followed Beyoncé’s trainer’s 22 Days vegan program, saying he’s never felt better. Rapper Will.i.am went vegan last year after health warnings from his physician.
Professional critic and well-known curmudgeon Simon Cowell also recently made the shift away from animal products. Like Rogan, Cowell’s not short on controversy or double-speak, but his move away from animal products has made him a changed man. He reported that he’s feeling healthier, more active, sleeping better. He lost 20 pounds after cutting out animal products. And ethics looks to be playing a role in his shift as well: the former “American Idol” judge has become an advocate for rescue dogs. He’s also spoken out against the dog meat trade.
Rogan, though, can’t seem to keep his opinions straight: On one hand, he’s convinced of the nutritional benefits of eating animals. He also hunts. He likes greasy, meaty fast food. But he’s also heavily criticized factory farming, where the overwhelming majority of all animal products come from, especially that meaty, greasy fast food.
He’s brought on guests with the intention of finding flaws in the vegan diet, like doctors who’ve picked apart the 2017 film “What the Health.”
And while small amounts of animal protein can be part of a largely healthy, otherwise plant-forward diet, there’s mounting evidence for leaving animal products off our plates altogether. From the environmental impact to the ethics of raising and slaughtering billions of animals every year for food.
Swapping out animal products has never been easier, either. If it’s greasy fast food Rogan is after, he can head to Burger King for an Impossible Whopper made with the vegan Impossible Burger. White Castle makes Impossible Sliders. Carl’s Jr. has the Beyond Star Burger made with Beyond Meat’s vegan Beyond Burger. KFC is currently developing a vegan option and Chick-fil-A is exploring meatless chicken, too.
Credit growing consumer demand as evident in Beyond Meat’s IPO; it’s not only the first vegan meat brand to go public, but was also the most successful launch for a company in nearly twenty years, even outperforming Uber’s launch just days later.
The Moral Meat Dilemma
In his 2018 Netflix special, Rogan took vegans to task for feeding their pets animal-based diets. “If you’re a vegan with a pet cat, that’s like being a doctor with a pet vampire,” he said. “Pick a team, [expletive] face. What are you doing?”
So, why is Rogan so focused on discrediting the ethical, environmental, and health benefits of a vegan diet, anyway? Are vegans really hurting anyone with their choice?
In 2016, the “Vegan Bros” Phil and Matt Letten (brothers and authors who reversed their chronic health issues with a switch to a vegan diet) predicted Rogan would eventually go vegan.
“Joe Rogan actually has a lot more in common with vegans than a lot of people realize. And in our opinion, he is probably at least like 75% vegan,” the Bros wrote.
Rogan may very well be “mostly” vegan, eating healthier than he leads on. And he certainly is compassionate about some animals. When Kevin Smith was on an episode recently, the two seemed to bond over the grief of losing a dog. And he’s admitted that while he hunts, it may not be something everyone who eats meat has the capacity to do.
So, then, why does he seem fixated on bringing the vegan diet into so many conversations?
The answer may lie with another comedian: Romesh Ranganathan.
The vegan comic recently talked about veganism in a short video for BBC. According to Ranganathan, the reason people — people like Joe Rogan — “hate” vegans is because they know they’re right.
“People hate vegans and the reason they hate vegans is because they think we’re humorless, they think we think we’re better than non-vegans, they think we’re always banging on about it, and all of those things are true,” Ranganathan said in the clip.
“I am better than you if you’re not vegan. In terms of my ethical decisions, I am so much better than you. I’m better for the planet, I’m better for the animals. There’s nothing worse about me apart from I’m slightly irritating to have round for dinner.”
And while his “I am better than you” was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it may hit home for Rogan and others in the “vegans are wrong” camp.
Grappling with what (especially if it’s a “who”) we eat is big. It can be a seriously life-changing moment of personal reflection. Whether it’s the health issues like those that drove Cowell and Smith to shift, the environmental impact that has millions of flexitarians moving further and further away from animal products, or the ethical shifts like those celebs like Natalie Portman, Russell Brand, Moby credit as their motivation.
“[Vegans] are gonna save the world,” Ranganathan says bluntly, “why would you hate that?” Why indeed, Mr. Rogan.