Back in early 2010s, things were different. Better. More than a few of the country’s leading political figures had decided to go vegan. In earlier eras, the stereotype (in America at least) was that only grating liberal arts college activists downed Tofurky dogs and seed-based salads.
Thanks to our leaders at the time, eating right — or, at the very least, just eating less shit — became cool.
Even if you don’t believe that veganism is a healthy diet (research shows that, like with all diets, it depends on how you manage it), vegan diets were preferable to what most of us were eating in the early 2010s. Remember, this was right before roasted Brussels sprouts started to go viral. Some of us didn’t even know what kale was yet.
But then President Bill Clinton, known for downing Mickey Ds while jogging, announced that he was a vegan in 2010. Clinton had suffered through a quadruple bypass earlier in 2004. In 2010, he was forced to undergo emergency surgery to repair a pair of stents, inspiring him to go militantly vegan.
Clinton, our one-time McPresident, now loves whipped cauliflower, quinoa, and almond milk.
Compare that to…this.
Three years after Clinton went vegan, vice president and bourgie hippie Al Gore decided to change his diet as well. In 2014, Gore told MedScape that he chose to make the switch to “see what it was like,” citing concerns about the environment and health. Gore had spent years warning us about the environmental consequences of factory farming.
Around the same time, Elizabeth Kucinich, director of government affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, launched a personal campaign to make D.C. go vegan, and criticized President Barack Obama in the process:
“It’s a shame when Michelle Obama is out there fighting the good fight, trying to get people thinking about their diet and then somebody else very close to home is doing a very different kind of photo-op,” Kucinich said, referencing Obama’s hamburger stops.
Senator Cory Booker announced in 2014 that he was going vegan, after 20 years spent as a vegetarian.
“I want to try to live my own values as consciously and purposefully as I can,” Booker told The Daily Beast in 2014. “Being vegan for me is a cleaner way of not participating in practices that don’t align with my values.”
There are other politicians out there who espouse the values of a vegan diet, many of them in the United Kingdom. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that so many politicians went vegan in the early 2010s. Healthy food was trendy, and more people were concerned about climate change, which is connected to factory farming.
These were different, slightly saner times. It’s just heartwarming to remember a brief time when our political leaders cared about animal welfare, climate changes, and eating something other than fries on Air Force One.