Bill Clinton is named the animal world's new best friend

The former president has become a vegan. (There's just the small matter of the fish)

He was the president who famously couldn't jog past McDonald's without grabbing a snack, which makes Bill Clinton a most unlikely candidate for vegan hero. But that is exactly what swapping burgers for beans has done for the former fast-food fanatic, according to a leading animal rights campaign group.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has bestowed its Person of the Year award on Mr Clinton, in recognition of his rebirth as a paid-up member of the mung bean-munching fraternity. Mr Clinton opted for the ultimate in new year cleanses – a largely vegan diet – to purge his body after realising it had taken one burger battering too many. This is, after all, a man who ordered a double hamburger (and fries) to fuel up for an anti-obesity speech.

Peta's decision is not without controversy: Mr Clinton has admitted eating the odd piece of fish. But the organisation said it was "pleased" to name him as its 2010 Person of the Year "because he uses his influence to promote the benefits of following a vegan diet".

The former president recently revealed that he now lived on "beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit" but absolutely "no dairy". He was scared into making the switch after doctors followed up quadruple bypass surgery by inserting two stents – tubes that keep the coronary arteries open – in his heart last February. The prospect of waddling his vegan daughter, Chelsea, down the aisle last summer only hardened his resolve.

The upshot of his new vegan(ish) lifestyle has resulted in Mr Clinton losing 11 kilos (24lb), returning him to his high-school weight. "It changed my whole metabolism," he said. Mr Clinton added that he researched the past 25 years of medical evidence about the benefits of turning vegan and found that 82 per cent of those who switched to a plant-based diet had unclogged their arteries naturally: "I thought I'd become one of those who have a self-cleaning mechanism."

Mr Clinton's award has also earned him a nomination for Peta's Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity of 2011, to be announced this summer. Previous winners have included the singer Leona Lewis and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis. The actress Alicia Silverstone, herself a former victor, said she was thrilled about Mr Clinton's conversion. "Yay Bill! I'm so excited for him!" she wrote on her blog.

While veganism remains a lifestyle choice for the ethically hardcore – even the Green MP Caroline Lucas has admitted she is still striving towards becoming vegan – the advent of campaigns such as Sir Paul McCartney's Meatless Monday initiative is inspiring millions worldwide to reduce the amount of meat they eat. More restaurateurs, including Aldo Zilli, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Alain Passard, are making vegetables the stars rather than the accompaniments on their menus, even if less than 1 per cent of the UK population is actually vegan.

A variety of vegans

The former leader of the free world will mix in glamorous company if he chooses to throw a vegan dinner party. The nerdy nut-loaf eating image has been long banished and the some of the world's most glamorous people have embraced a lifestyle which eschews the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.

Fellow guests could include Batgirl actor Alicia Silverstone who was voted Peta's sexiest vegan in 2004. Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix is also a fellow Peta fan. Other thespian vegans include Daryl Hannah, Demi Moore and Natalie Portman while Spiderman star Tobey Maguire, Scottish actor Alan Cumming, and "Hobbit" Elijah Wood are all committed vegans. Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, together with musicians Morrissey, Bryan Adams, Phil Collins and singers Alanis Morissette and Sinead O'Connor could provide a musical accompaniment.

Olympic athlete Carl Lewis and NBA professional basketball player John Salley both provide proof that a vegan lifestyle is no bar to physical excellence while fellow US Democrat Dennis Kucinich can keep him political company and comedian Ellen DeGeneres is on hand to supply some laughs if conversation flags.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader ...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us