Is David Attenborough Vegan? Here’s What We Know

Sir David Attenborough says the planet cannot support billions of meat-eaters - so is he vegan or vegetarian?


6 Minutes Read

Broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough Due to his outspoken environmentalism, many people may wonder if David Attenborough is vegan - Media Credit: Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

Sir David Attenborough is revered for his work in educating people about the crisis facing the planet. Much of his work focuses on animals and environmental issues, leading some people to question whether is he is vegan, plant-based, or vegetarian. So, is David Attenborough vegan? Or Does he eat meat?

Animal farming is an environmental catastrophe. It creates harmful emissions, drives deforestation, and it’s also been identified as a “primary driver” of biodiversity loss. The UN has previously stated that the world must move toward “plant-heavy” dietary patterns to combat this issue. With many of Sir David’s shows focusing on animal extinction, many have wondered if he himself follows a meat-free diet.

Going vegan has been cited as the “single biggest way” to reduce our personal climate footprints. A report published in July 2023 found that vegan diets led to 75 percent less climate-heating emissions, land use, and water pollution than meat-heavy diets. They also cut the destruction of wildlife by 66 percent.

What has David Attenborough said about meat?

The impact animal farming has on our planet is something Sir David has recognized himself. In December 2023, David Attenborough slammed animal agriculture on his hugely popular BBC One show, Planet Earth III. In the episode – which was named “Human” – he said: “Currently the vast majority of agricultural land – more than 75 percent – is used to raise livestock and this is very inefficient.” He added that we “rear 70 billion farm animals each year and every one of them needs feeding.”

He went on to say that producing food for these animals is having a “profound impact on the natural world.”

“Year after year, we clear over two million hectares of the Amazon forest – an area the size of Wales. And we use nearly all of it to make more space for cattle and to grow soya to feed our livestock,” Sir David said. “If we shift away from eating meat and dairy and move towards a plant-based diet then the sun’s energy goes directly into growing our food. And because that’s so much more efficient, we could still produce enough to feed us but do so using a quarter of the land.”

This wasn’t the first time he’d been critical of animal farming. In 2020, the veteran broadcaster released a film titled A Life On Our Planet, which called upon the public to move away from meat.

The documentary covered the period of Sir David’s life up until that point, outlining the defining moments, and highlighting how the environment has been damaged during that time.

We must change our diet. The true tragedy of our time is still unfolding – the loss of biodiversity,” Sir David says in the film. “Half of fertile land on Earth is now farmland, 70 percent of birds are domestic, majority chickens. There’s little left for the world. We have completely destroyed it.”

He continued: “By 2080 global food production enters crisis, soils overused, weather more unpredictable… a sixth mass extinction is well under way. Our garden of Eden will be lost. I wish I wasn’t involved in this struggle. I wish I wasn’t there.”

In an interview with Radio Times magazine, he expanded on this point: “Human beings have overrun the Earth. We have completely destroyed that world.

“The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters. If we all ate only plants, we’d need only half the land we use at the moment.”

Is David Attenborough vegan? Does he eat meat?

In short, as of December 2023, it is not known whether Sir David follows a vegan lifestyle or plant-based diet. Due to his words on Planet Earth III, it may be that he has recently ditched animal products – but he has previously stated that he does eat some meat and dairy.

David Attenborough, who includes some meat in his diet, on the set of one of his wildlife documentaries
imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo David Attenborough has been making wildlife documentaries for a number of years

In a past interview with the BBC in 2017, he is reported to have discussed reducing his meat intake. “I no longer have the same appetite for meat. Why? I’m not sure,” he said

“I think subconsciously maybe it’s because of the state of the planet. Although, I’ve never really been one for eating enormous meals and I’m not particularly a gourmet either, so I can’t pretend that I’m feeling deprived in any way or that it’s cost me all that much.”

He added: “I’m not claiming any moral virtue at this point — I’m just saying I don’t want to eat any red meat anymore.”

Later, in a 2020 interview with Good Housekeeping, Sir David said he was moving closer to vegetarianism.

“Well, I have certainly changed my diet. Not in a great sort of dramatic way. But I don’t think I’ve eaten red meat for months,” he explained. “I do eat cheese, I have to say, and I eat fish. But by and large I’ve become much more vegetarian over the past few years than I thought I would ever be.”

David Attenborough diet and ‘middle-class hypocrisy’

The broadcaster has previously stated that, while he recommends people stop eating meat, he is a hypocrite for not doing so himself.

In the Radio Times interview, he explained: “I eat fish, and chicken, and my conscience does trouble me. I’m affluent enough to afford free range, but it’s a middle-class hypocrisy.”

In 2020, writing about Sir David’s meat-eating, The Times said: “Even national treasures sometimes struggle to practice what they preach.”

His unwillingness to lead by example when it comes to his diet hit headlines again in 2022 after a marine biologist attempted to confront him while he dined at a luxury seafood restaurant.

David Attenborough who does not eat a vegan diet speaking to camera on a documentary
Tony Watson / Alamy Stock Photo David Attenborough is regarded by many as a national treasure

Emma Smart, a supporter of Animal Rebellion, was reportedly “dragged” out of Catch at the Old Fish Market in Weymouth on November 17 of that year. She was urging Sir David to use his platform to call for food system change.

“We don’t need another documentary series showing us that we are losing, some 150 species going extinct globally every single day. What we need is action,” Smart, who is vegan, said in a statement. “Sir David is in a unique position to tell the truth about the biodiversity crisis. He has the chance to leave a legacy of love, care, and of being the forerunner of a better world.”

This article was updated on December 5, 2023, to include information about what Sir David Attenborough said about veganism on Planet Earth III

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