American horror television series “The Walking Dead” sees its cast bashing in brains, eating entrails, and punching out predators. But under all this drama and dying, there’s a handful of passionate animal lovers doing what they can to save the planet and do good by their bodies with vegan and vegetarian food.
The television shows portrays what life might be like in the years following a zombie apocalypse. A group of survivors work to stay alive while being faced with frequent attacks from zombies, called “Walkers” in the show. The Walkers aren’t the only threat posed to the characters; survivors often turn on each other and face conflict with communities of other survivors that have created their own questionable laws and moral rulings.
Some of the characters below have been killed off – you know, because it’s a post-apocalyptic world and there are zombies everywhere. But here are some familiar faces choosing to chow down on plant-based food in their time off from kicking butt.
7 Animal Advocates and Vegans in “The Walking Dead”
1. Austin Amelio
Austin Amelio, who plays Dwight in “The Walking Dead,” went vegan after watching “What The Health,” a documentary that explores the link between diet and disease. “I watched that documentary ‘What the Health’ ten days ago, and the next day I was like, ‘I’m done,'” he said to a fan last year.
“It’s been 10 days, completely vegan the whole entire time, and I feel better than I felt like in years,” the actor added.
He revealed that his then-four-year-old son was adopting a plant-based diet alongside him. Amelio also called a friend after watching “What The Health” and convinced him to go vegan as well. “How could I not be doing this my whole life?” Amelio said.
2. Christian Serratos
The actor behind “The Walking Dead”‘s Rosita Espinosa is an animal lover through and through. In 2009, she collaborated with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the largest animal rights organization in the world, to create an anti-fur campaign. Christian Serratos posed without clothes during a photoshoot for an advert that read: “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.”
“Animals killed for their fur are electrocuted, drowned, beaten, and often skinned alive. Please don’t wear fur,” the campaign said.
Serratos has also posed for PETA’s “Save the Seals” celebrity ad series. Speaking to the organization, she said, “I’ve always been opposed to slaughtering, eating, wearing carcass.”
They aren’t the only occasions that the actor has spoken out about about such causes. She once encouraged fans to ditch meat to save animals. “Your body shouldn’t be a graveyard. Factory farms are hell for animals, and their death is slow and painful. Help animals by not eating them,” she said.
Last year, the animal activist was seen cosying up to animals at The Gentle Barn Los Angeles, an animal sanctuary working to provide a safe home for llamas, chickens, turkeys, pigs, goats, and cows rescued from abuse and neglect. To honor the actor’s visit, The Gentle Barn founder Ellie Laks said she would name a just-rescued mother cow “Rosita,” after Serratos’ character on “The Walking Dead.”
In a statement, Laks said, “Like the character Rosita, our new cow embodies strength, courage, possesses deep protective qualities and has an inherent will to survive. She was rescued from a Los Angeles slaughterhouse with her baby calf, and we are so grateful to welcome them to The Gentle Barn to live free as nature intended.”
Speaking about her visit to the sanctuary, Serranos said, “As a new mom, it’s heartbreaking to think about what would have become of this beautiful cow and her baby calf.”
“Thanks to my friends at The Gentle Barn, they will live their lives in peace together as mother and son. It’s such an honor that they named her Rosita, and so fitting because she is fiercely protective. I’m so looking forward to bringing my daughter to the sanctuary to meet her and all of the other rescued residents!” she added.
3. Lauren Cohan
It’s not clear whether the zombie-fighting Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene in the series) eats meat, however, the actor does rely on “tons of vegetables” and Mason jars’ worth of salad dressings to power her through the week. “I eat healthy. But I splurge, too,” she said in an interview with Shape, adding that she is “obsessed” with Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, which are vegan.
In 2016, she encouraged her fans to watch the “absolutely stirring, riveting, and mind-blowing documentary” “Cowspiracy” on Netflix. The vegan documentary looks at sustainability and the connection between animal agriculture and environmental issues.
4. Alicia Witt
Alicia Witt plays Paula, an antagonist and a survivor of the outbreak in “The Walking Dead.” In an interview with PETA, the vegan actor and musician cuddled up with her two rescue dogs Jake and Maggie and spoke about the importance of adopting animals from shelters rather than buying them from breeders or pet shops.
“There’s so many beautiful mixed breeds dog that are phenomenally healthy and incredibly intelligent and so unique. You’ll never find another Jake and Maggie and I love that,” she said to PETA. “If you’re looking for an animal companion, please, you must rescue. Just save a life.”
She also talked about her decision to move away from animal products. Speaking about the egg industry, Witt said, “The male chicks are all just killed systematically when they’re born because farms only need a few roosters to impregnate all the females. Once I realized that I was grossed out by eating eggs.”
Thinking on the connection between meat and the animal it came from also inspired the change. “I’ll always remember the day, I was fourteen and I opened up a package of ground red meat,” the actor said. “I dumped it out into the pan and just suddenly realized what it was. Obviously I knew that it was made from cows before that, it was just that moment of recognition seeing it as ground bloody flesh.”
“I love animals so much, I can’t imagine contributing to the suffering they go through,” Witt said.
5. Steven Yeun
Though not a vegan or vegetarian, Steven Yeun – who played Glenn in “The Walking Dead” – is still doing his part for animal rights, maybe without even realizing. Yeun appeared in “Okja” – portraying K, a radical animal rights activist – that tells the story of a young girl trying to rescue her pig. Many say that “Okja” reflects parts of the animal agriculture industry accurately and some people cited the film as their reason for going vegan. INews said “Okja” might be the world’s “first vegetarian action movie.” The film was listed as one of the ten best movies of 2017 by the New York Times.
6. Danai Gurira
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Made a new friend. His name is Mark. Mark is an orphaned bull #elephant I met with @WildAid at Imire Lodge in Zimbabwe. He got a second chance thanks to local wildlife #conservation efforts. Feels great to be home and I hope that all Zimbabweans and others from around the world will visit our incredible national parks to experience these beautiful creatures! @zimbabwetourismauthority #PoachingStealsFromUsAll #WhenTheBuyingStopsTheKillingCanToo #WorthMoreAlive
Danai Gurira, who portrays the katana-wielding Michonne, calls herself a “pesca-vegan,” meaning she eats fish but doesn’t touch meat and dairy (thankfully for Gurira, there are plenty of vegan fish alternatives out there). She also loves her veggies. “I used to have spinach when I was a kid, and my mom wouldn’t let me leave the table until I’d eaten it,” she said. “Somehow that worked its way into me feeling like I have to eat spinach. And now I love spinach—I mean, I love spinach. I want it in my smoothies, I want it on the side, I want it with my meals,” she said in an interview.
All that plant power, coupled with “intense” workouts, keeps her strong and performing at her best. “As women, we’re not always encouraged to find the fullest extent of our physical power,” she said. “There’s something so exciting about tapping into that part of ourselves.”
In 2016, she Tweeted New Jersey senator Cory Booker, a vegan politician who is running for president in 2020. To celebrate World Vegan Day, she wrote in the Tweet some recommendations for her latest favorite “vegan finds,” including cashew cheese and coconut milk yogurt. “So good!” she said.
She’s also spoken out about wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe. On Instagram, Gurira thanked WildAid, an environmental organization at Imire Lodge in Zimbabwe. In the hashtags of the post, the actor reminded her 2.8 million followers that “poaching steals from us all,” “when the buying stops the killing can, too,” and that elephants are “worth more alive.”
7. Norman Reedus
Though not a vegan, Norman Reedus did announce he had stopped eating meat following some particularly grotesque scenes on “The Walking Dead.” The actor – who plays the crossbow-wielding Daryl Dixon – said to The Daily Star, “I’ve become a vegetarian and I’m kind of bummed about it.” According to the publication, after a day spent filming “stomach-churning blood-and-gore scenes,” a roast or barbecued meat is the last thing on the actor’s mind.
Other Cast and Crew
Is “The Walking Dead” on a mission to turn all of its cast and crew meat-free? An off-camera source told The Daily Star that Reedus isn’t the only one that was motivated to move away from meat thanks to the series’ realistic special effects; many actors and crew members have ditched the animal product, too. Because of this, around 80 percent of the food served on set at the five locations in Georgia – where “The Walking Dead” is filmed – is now meat-free.
Spinach and avocado salad with garlic mustard vinaigrette, mushroom risotto, and black bean enchiladas are on the menu now instead.
“After watching ‘Walkers’ realistically look as though they are consuming bloody human flesh or seeing heads and other body parts sliced off, no one was touching the red meat or even chicken that was on offer,” the source explained.
He continued, “And, often, we’re talking about hundreds of people who need to be fed on a show that regularly uses an enormous number of extras all made-up to look so scary they’d put anyone off eating.”
“And who could possibly sit down to liver and onions or a kidney dish after slopping around in very lifelike entrails or other realistic props on set?” he added.