Ricky Gervais, superstar comedian, middle name Dene, famous for The Office, a mass of other TV comedies and hosting the Golden Globes several times, each occasion seeing an increase in the number of Hollywood stars he offends. Okay, now we know whom we mean, let’s move on with the latest in our “are they vegan?” features and answer the question at hand: is Ricky Gervais vegan?
What’s the Craic?
Gervais is outspoken on a wide range of subjects and is a keen activist on many issues. He has raised a lot of money for charity over the years, including for McMillan Cancer Support when he took part in a celebrity boxing match. However, much of his activism and charity work has centred on animal welfare and he pledged to leave much of his fortune (estimated at $140m) to animal charities before quipping on Twitter, “I was going to leave my fortune to animal charities after I die. But I’ve decided to do it before I die so I can reply to all the outrage on Twitter.”
However, whilst we applaud anyone who donates money to almost any charity and we are equally positive about someone with a desire to improve the lives of animals, the question at hand is whether or not the Reading-born comedian is vegan or not. Some people may just wonder whether Gervais is vegan and be satisfied to learn about another famous vegan. Rather sadly, we suspect others are seeking only to confirm their prejudice that he is “just another celebrity who says one thing but does another” and actually want him not to be vegan so they can call him a hypocrite.
Well, whatever your motivation for wanting to know about the dietary habits and lifestyle of Slough’s most famous fictional resident, we can tell you that Ricky Gervais is not vegan. Before you start getting your pitchforks ready, he is vegetarian though, so vegan fans of the man, his comedy or just his activism, can at least rest assured that Gervais does not eat animal flesh.
Now we’ve explained why “Is Ricky Gervais vegan?” is a question some have asked and given a quick and simple answer to it, we will now look in more detail at the issue. We’ll take a look at what Gervais himself has said and how we can be so sure of his lifestyle; we’ll take a glance at the animal rights work he has done and we’ll also take a brief look at his career in general.
Gervais Is More Likely Vegetarian
Elsewhere on the site, we have looked at other celebrities, including Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough, and it is not always easy to be sure whether they are vegan or not. However, in the case of the man who said, “Be happy. It really annoys negative people” (we’re just gonna throw in some random positivity here and there!) thankfully he has very helpfully made his position clear. Even better, he did this quite recently too. And even better still, being a comedian, he did it in a way that we think was quite funny.
Speaking about the negative aspects of cancel culture in August 2020, he was quoted in Metro as saying, “You are allowed to have things in common with bad people as long as it’s not the bad things. I’m a vegetarian and I love dogs, like Hitler. But the only thing I have in common with Hitler are the good bits”. So, Gervais and Hitler and almost like brothers, some might say.
Not us though. We’re just going to take from that the fact that the creator of David Brent is a vegetarian and therefore, by definition, not a vegan. Of course, things change and it is far from uncommon for people to go from being carnivores, then perhaps becoming a pescetarian, then to being vegetarian, before finally going “fully” vegan. We’ve looked at several celebrity vegans whose journeys have gone something like that and it is certainly possible that Gervais will at some stage move to an entirely plant-based lifestyle.
Over the years there have been many articles online and indeed much debate, primarily among vegans, as to whether the comedian is “officially” vegan (is there a badge or a club that we don’t know about?!). People analyse his shows, his tweets, and statements and interviews he gives in the search for definitive evidence. Unfortunately, his official site is infrequently updated and of little help.
Plant Based Evidence
We have seen certain sites that declare Gervais a vegan on fairly scant evidence, such as him mentioning that when he did (assuming past tense) eat cheese, it would have been mature cheddar. He also reportedly did a FAQ on his Instagram where he said that “fish” fingers eaten during the brilliant After Life were vegan ones. Unfortunately, lots of non-vegans eat vegan products. Well, actually, that is great, as they aren’t eating animal ones; but it isn’t so great from an evidential perspective. A non-vegan eating a vegan Pukka pie doesn’t instantly make them a vegan, after all.
He also ate vegan wings on the famous Hot Ones challenge but once again, eating vegan foods does not make someone vegan. Even the most unreconstructed carnivore might eat potatoes or peas… with their steak. It is hardly surprising that someone like Gervais, who clearly cares a great deal about animals, would eat a lot of plant-based foods, including some that are specifically vegan.
Ultimately though, we have to come back to the comment in the most recent interview we can find on the matter. So, at the time of writing (February 2021), based on that August 2020 interview, we have to assume that Gervais remains vegetarian but not (yet) vegan. Quite how often he eats non-vegan foods is impossible to know. He may well be almost vegan (or veganish, if you prefer) and essentially be vegan in all but name, preferring not to proclaim himself such to avoid people trying to catch him out or having to scour every product for unexpected non-vegan E numbers or other hidden animal nasties.
Is It Hypocritical for Him Not to Be Vegan?
Based on the available evidence we have to assume that the man in question is vegetarian. Whilst probably the sort of vegetarian who doesn’t wolf down cheese by the kilo, milk by the gallon and eggs by the dozen, it seems he is vegetarian but not vegan. Does that make him a hypocrite, given his frequent, public and forthright proclamations on behalf of animal rights? Well, if you want the short answer we would say, unequivocally, no.
As we have said many times in different areas of the site, we feel it is better not to exclude people, not to say that only the strictest, most absolute vegans are worthy or doing something that benefits animals. Like Gervais, we are not religious people but to paraphrase the Bible, let him (or her) who is without sin cast the first stone. Saving one animal’s life by not eating meat just one day of the week is a great start for some people.
Moreover, more people are likely to become vegan if they feel it is a movement (some would say religion!) that is welcoming, non-judgemental and inclusive, rather than one open only to those who have never so much as accidentally consumed some gelatine or other non-vegan additive. A path towards veganism is about finding your own way of living that kills, harms and exploits as few animals as possible.
Ricky Gervais, we believe, is a vegetarian whose lifestyle is, in many ways, similar to that of many vegans. The fact that this sits alongside huge donations to animal charities and fundraising for them, as well as actions that raise the profile of such causes, is a very big positive and should certainly not be viewed unkindly. So, what of this animal activism?
Ricky Gervais & Animal Activism
As we have already said, the English funnyman has pledged to give his fortune to animal charities when he dies. But his efforts to improve the lot of animals go much further than simply giving money. He uses his large social media presence to highlight many issues, in particular trophy hunting. He has said of such hunting that, “It’s hard to think of anything more sickening or senseless than killing an animal for entertainment… Trophy hunting is humanity at its very worst.”
He has often spoken out and campaigned against fox hunting, the fur trade, China’s controversial Yulin Dog Meat Festival and a whole host of other issues, including encouraging dog adoption. He uses his Twitter, YouTube and other platforms to educate and campaign his followers and this activism earned him PETA’s 2013 Person of the Year award.
He has been handed many other honours for his work too. In 2016, he won the Lord Houghton Award for outstanding service to animal welfare from Animal Defenders International. More recently, in 2018, he was honoured by Humane Society International, being given their Cecil Award (named after the lion Cecil that was tragically killed by a US trophy hunter).
There can be little doubt that his advocacy and campaigning has helped save the lives of animals and improve the lives of many too. Some would choose to call him a hypocrite for not being vegan but we would encourage anyone to instead focus on all the positive, pro-animal work he has done and what he has helped achieve.
Ricky Gervais Career Highlights
Gervais would not be in a position to raise awareness of such animal issues and highlight good causes were it not for his remarkable career. Let us now briefly look at some of the highlights that helped create his platform.
Gervais initially had his sights set on pop stardom and has often worked his love of music into his shows and sketches. Along with friend Bill Macrae, he was in a new wave band Seona Dancing who released a couple of singles without any real success. In the late 90s, he had small parts in various comedy shows and worked as a writer but his breakthrough came, of course, with The Office in 2001.
- The Office – 2001 – Created by Gervais and Stephen Merchant, this iconic mockumentary launched David Brent and has had an impact far beyond the mere 14 episodes that were filmed.
- Stand-up Comedy – Gervais performed stand-up from the late 90s and was beginning to find fame around the time of The Office. Subsequently, huge tours, such as Animals, Politics and Fame were played to packed venues.
- Extras – 2005 – His second major series was a sitcom which saw the likes of Kate Winslet, Samuel L Jackson, Patrick Steward, Robert De Niro and David Bowie, among, many, many others, appear.
- Derek – 2011 – Set in a retirement home, Derek showed a kinder side to Gervais and saw Karl Pilkington, who had worked with Gervais on an earlier programme, An Idiot Aboard, make his acting debut.
- After Life – 2018 – This Netflix comedy-drama mixed real emotion and serious issues about grief with shock humour and real belly laughs.
The above list is just a brief highlight real and the multi-talented almost-vegan has made many other great programmes, as well as working on radio, making podcasts, writing children’s books, hosting talk shows and, infamously, hosting awards ceremonies and other live TV events.