Vegan and punk-rock? It may seem random from a distance, but if we look closer into their history, the two cultures are tightly interwound . From Tim McIlrath (Rise Against) and Travis Barker (Blink-182) of the 2000s, to John Feldmann (Goldfinger) to Davey Havok (AFI) of the 1990s, tracing back to Gregg Finn (Black Flag) to Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat) of the 1980s. What they all had in common is they are incredible punk-rock musicians, humans and they are particularly picky about their diet: They are all vegetarian or vegan and back then they were loud about it.
But how loud?
Upon studying 1980 punk culture and its subculture - it is clear there are two principal subcultures by which punk bands identified themselves: by being straight-edge (No alcohol, drugs, caffeine) or anti-government/authority (anarchists). In the 1980s some punk bands were sending messages through their lifestyle as well as their music, and these lifestyle choices were proof of legitimacy and rebellion within their subcultures. So what is the link between punk-rock and veganism? Effectively both punk-rock and plant-based ideologies give the central idea to question the how and why as a way to rebel against the norm and to question the norm.
The straight edge movement began in the early 1980s when Minor Threat came with the song of the same name, which is attributed to starting/igniting this punk-subculture. Even though there are a few contradictions with the definition of being straight edge, the common ground was no drugs and a very rigid clean lifestyle which eventually evolved into being veganism/vegetarian. Ian MacKaye, the frontman of Minor Threat said he never intended this to blow up but he has been one of the leading examples of eating clean (vegan) and no drugs in the music industry. In the late 1980s more radical bands entered the scene like Vegan Reichs from Laguna Beach, who began promoting their animal rights beliefs and activism through songs like “This is it” or “I, the Jury'' on their performances. These were definitely NSFW (Not Safe For Work) songs and maybe a little extreme that had very strong statements about animal rights but became popular in the Southern California punk scene.
In the 1990’s one of the most popular straight-edge punk bands was AFI. Frontman Davey Havok is vegan, and credits his lifestyle to both the longevity of his band as well as his personal health . Havok has been vocal about his lifestyle and commitment to veganism, and says, “It truly was the straight edge and and hardcore scene that influenced me to be a vegetarian in the first place and that educated me in health and animal rights, and it was the same community that led me to veganism by education.”  Travis Barker from Blink-182 has participated in numerous vegan campaigns but one that stands out is “Make some noise for animals” a Peta campaign he co-ran with daughter Alabama and of course Peta.
One of our favorite bands from the 2000s is Rise against is part of the straight-edge subculture. Rise Against’s Joe Principe and Tim McIlrath are both vegan, and McIlrath credits becoming involved in punk rock with his connection to his convictions, particularly veganism . The video for the band’s single “Ready to Fall” shows the correlation of factory farming, rodeos, and sport hunting with deforestation, melting ice caps, and forest fires.  This is a great message from Tim McIlrath, stating that we can you be the Architects of a new generation:
Being punk rock is a forgotten link - As animal rights and activism continue to gain more traction in mainstream society in the 2010s and 2020s, alternative lifestyles such as straight edge have faded and remain under the radar. Veganism and punk rock supported and challenged each other in their growth and maturation in the 1980s and 1990s, it is worth talking about the two and how there is a link between them and the beginning of animal rights and conscious eating. Whether it is for finding the roots of the plant-based movement or just simply being punk-rock.