Vegan and punk

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Jess Saunders examines the intersection between two subcultures

While the word ‘punk’ might evoke images of Sid Vicious’ spiky hair or GG Allin performing violently onstage, that no longer represents the scene that I belong to. Jess and Dan

There is a lot of crossover between punk and veganism. This can take many forms – from songs featuring vegan-centric lyrics, to punk events such as Manchester Punk Festival and Wonkfest offering lots of plant-based options. I’ve personally met and become friends with many punks who live a vegan lifestyle, as well as people who are somewhere along the journey from omnivore to vegan. 

Vegan punk artists 

I’m often pleasantly surprised to learn that some of my favourite punk bands have vegan members – from The Flatliners to Laura Jane Grace, little known bands like Goodbye Blue Monday to YouTuber Skatune Network, and breakthrough punk acts like Meet Me @ The Altar and Bob Vylan. 

And then there are bands who are performing on the world stage – I’m looking at you Travis Barker of Blink-182 – who’s been making veganism cool for over 10 years. Travis has promoted the benefits of veganism in high-profile online publications. In a Men’s Health interview he says, “Honestly, ever since I found this way of eating I have endless amounts of energy. I can go all day, and after it all I never find myself getting tired. No matter what kind of shows I have done, or workouts I do on top of it, I still have to force myself to sleep at night.” 

Punk and animal rights 

It’s not just my experience though. There’s a documented link between vegan ideology and punk rock – and it’s not new. Punks have been standing up for animal rights since the 1980s. 

An essay on Consequence Sound states that there’s a "natural intersection between punk and advocacy." The piece goes on to say that hardcore band Youth of Today “led the charge, spreading the anti-meat gospel”, with lyrics such as “When the price paid is the life of something else/ No more/ I won’t participate” from their 1988 song, ‘No More’. 

Propaghandi moved the conversation forward throughout the 90s and went on to be called "The most renowned contemporary vegan punk band." They even included educational content about veganism with their album Potemkin City Limits.  

Back in 1998, melodic punk rockers Good Riddance released their song ‘Wasted’, which criticises the practice of killing animals for food. They sing: “Who will be their voice / Who will hear their cries / The ones who cannot speak / As we dehumanise / Incarcerated innocents.” 

A more recent song from Aussie punk rockers The Decline questions the ethics of testing on animals in their 2015 banger ‘Excuse Me’: “I understand necessity. / You’re not the one in a factory, locked in cages. / Testing products we don’t need, / Manufacturing pure greed.” 

This led to not only more punk bands using their own music as a form of activism but also inspired subcultures, like some Hunt Sab groups all the way through to vegan chefs, like Isa Chandra’s Post Punk Kitchen, Bad Manners (previously known as Thug Kitchen) and even my small corner of the internet – – where my husband Dan and I share simple vegan recipes with a pinch of punk attitude.  

Isa Chandra’s Post Punk Kitchen was a cooking show that aired between 2003–2005 in the US, set to a backdrop of punk rock music. The show embodies the DIY nature that is associated with punk rock, with the presenters wearing band T-shirts while cooking up a storm in the kitchen. 

Millie MandersAn empathetic environment 

It’s clear that refraining from eating any animal products easily links with punk rock attitudes, and in itself is a form of protest – just like many punk rock songs. 

Millie, from Millie Manders and the Shutup, puts it best when she says, “Veganism is on the rise in a big way, and that includes in the punk scene. These days punk isn’t about smashing stuff and spitting at people. It’s anti-establishment, pro rights and equality and that means, for a lot of us, being anti-speciesist too.” 

Andy Davies from Manchester Punk Festival (MPF) and TNSrecords says, "I think lots of people in the punk scene are drawn towards a vegan lifestyle. I certainly became aware of veganism through reading ’zines I picked up at gigs many years ago, way before it was in the mainstream. At MPF we've always tried to make promotion of vegan food options a priority." 

Emma Prew, writer at Colin's Punk Rock World, a grassroots UK punk rock blog, has also spoken about the DIY punk scene: “It’s a socially conscious and empathetic environment that I think goes hand-in-hand with veganism. I travel around a lot for shows, both within the UK and further afield, and it’s great to have like-minded people as well as accessible vegan food options everywhere I go. No one thinks it’s even slightly out of the ordinary when they find out you’re vegan. If anything, I’m surprised when other people aren’t vegan…(yet)!” 

Intersectional activism 

While not everyone in the punk scene is vegan, it’s clear that there is an open-mindedness in the community that might not be expected. The music that we listen to is advocating for a better world, and maybe that’s why vegans are drawn in, or why the music helps people along their own vegan journey. 

Overall, it’s clear that punk rock isn't just about the music. It's a subculture that stands up for what's right. There isn't just a crossover between punk rock and veganism, but it’s intertwined with intersectional activism – feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, human rights, political justices, environmental activism and much more. 

It's an inclusive community where the misfits fit in, and that often includes people with ideas that set them apart from the mainstream. 

This article was first published in our membership magazine The Vegan 2023 Issue 1.

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