Love them or hate them, celebrities are an important part of any social movement. They have the access to resources, a mass following, lots of social power, and strong funding – all of which are required to drive permanent change on a large scale.
One common issue many famous people from the film, beauty, music, sports and other industries have been quite vocal about is animal welfare/rights. They’ve brought the public’s attention to the plight of animals, whether that’s by going vegan or speaking up against cruel institutions that abuse poor creatures for their own benefit.
In this list, we’ll honor the names of such big-hearted heroes. They might not be perfect but they’ve done their part, so while I’m not asking you to worship them, you’ll still benefit from studying their tactics closely, so that as you climb the ladder, you can leverage your power to make a larger impact, too.
1. Virat & Anushka
It certainly helps that the most iconic power couple from India shares a commitment towards helping animals. Virat Kohli is the ex-captain of the Indian Men’s team and Anusha Sharma is one of Bollywood’s biggest heartthrob -Both of them live confirmed they live on a meat-free diet but have dismissed rumours of being vegan. But seeing the level of dedication they function on, we’re sure they’ll get there very soon.
Virat admitted Indian Express that the inspiration for his work on the issue sprouts mainly from his wife, who has been actively involved in the community for a long time.
He said, “Looking after the welfare of animals is a cause very close to my heart now as Anushka is very passionate about this issue. Her vision to help stray animals across India is truly inspiring for me and since I have met her, I have tried to understand more about animal rights and the urgent need for medical assistance for strays.”
Virat continued, “It is our dream to create a safer space for the stray animals of our city and I’m happy to be taking on this project with Vivaldis and Awaaz, and working with likeminded people to create some facilities to help these animals.”
Finally, on the occasion of World Stray Animals’ Day on April 24 2021, he officially tweeted his progress on setting up 2 new dog shelters in the Malad & Bhoisar areas of Mumbai. The Foundation under his name has been collaboating with Vivaldis Animal Health, a leading Indian animal healthcare company founded by Kunal Khanna, a London Business School alumnus.
Together, they’re working with Awaaz Voice of Stray Animals, with funding for ambulances and treatment coming from the veteran batter.
As of September 2021, the Malad shelter was fully operational.
2. John Abraham
One of the most recognizable hunky stars in Bollywood, John has been working with PETA India on several occassions to help in rescuing caged birds and animals in circuses, and even to talk about his vegetarian diet.
In 2021, he worked with Mercy for Animals, another international NGO, urging people to expand their boundaries of compassion to all living beings and advocate for animal welfare.
Earlier in 2016, he had he signed and auctioned his North-East United FC jersey, with the proceeds going to Animal Rahat, a Sangli-based NGO that provides for animals desperately in need of care.
In 2013, he had asked the Central Government to ban the use of animals in circuses. In his letter to Jayanthi Natarajan, the Minister of Environment and Forests, he wrote “Unlike human performers, animals are forced to entertain through the use of fear, pain or hunger. Whips, clubs, hooks and other weapons are often used to inflict pain on elephants and other animals in order to force them to perform confusing tricks. I hope you will look into your heart and make the compassionate choice by issuing an immediate ban on the use of all animals in circuses.”
As of today, the Section 22(ii) of the PCA Act 1960 states that animals such as monkeys, tigers, bears, lions, bulls are prohibited from being trained and used for the purpose of entertainment in circuses as well as the streets. While the legislations for this are still pending to be strictly enforced, John’s letter certainly helped to rally support for the cause.
Most recently in 2020, John had sent a letter urging e-retailer Quikr to stop trading in live animals. He also adopted a community dog, urged authorities to stop illegal pig slaughter in Goa and put a football jersey on the auction block to benefit the organisations that help animals.
For all these reasons, PETA named him as the Person of the Year for 2020. Past recipients of the honour include politician Shashi Tharoor, former Supreme Court Justice KS Panicker Radhakrishnan, cricketer Virat Kohli, and actors Anushka Sharma, Sunny Leone, Sonam Kapoor, Kapil Sharma, Hema Malini, R. Madhavan, and Jacqueline Fernandez.
3. R Madhavan
As we saw in the last point, Ranganathan Madhavan was also conferred the Person of the Year title by PETA in 2012. A long-time vegetarian, the actor used his talent to narrate the video “Glass Walls,” which is one of PETA India’s most endearing pleas for people to stop consuming animals on ethical grounds.
In the ad, now available on YouTube, Madhavan exposes what happens to animals raised for meat, eggs and dairy products, asking listeners to stop supporting the cruelty by going plant-based.
“When you see what goes on inside slaughterhouses, I think you’ll lose your appetite for animal flesh, too”, Madhavan says in the video. “Animals feel pain, just as people do. They value their lives, just as we value ours.” He concludes by saying, “I hope you’ll also make the compassionate choice and go vegetarian.”
He was also involved in the NGO’s Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign, for which he sent a letter on to the CEO of KFC parent company, Yum! Brands, urging him to stop the hellish torture of chickens who are killed for KFC, a process that includes scalding live birds to death.
His son Vedaant followed dad’s footsteps by donating money that he received for his seventh birthday to further the good work.
The 51-year-old Tamil legend is known for his cinematic brilliance in hits like 3 Idiots, Tannu Weds Mannu, Rang De Basanti, Yuva, and Sala Khadoos
4. Alia Bhatt
Next up in line from the B-stars list is Alia Bhatt, who bagged PETA’s honor recently in 2021. Her affection for animals, particularly cats, was not new to the public, thanks to her social media posts. She and her sister Shaheen were avid animal lovers as kids, and she said there was a time that there would be a new, rescued kitten in their house every week.
She partnered with the platform Fankind to raise funds for the charity World For All, which takes care of strays in Mumbai. She selected select pieces from her wardrobe to raise funds for animal welfare, which commemorated the sixth edition of fundraisers by the organization “Mi Wardobe is Su Wardrobe” (MiSu).
MiSu is apparently fashion for a cause, where select products are sold and the proceeds are disbursed to multiple charitable organisations within the country. However, the larger underlying objective is to create genuine awareness on recycling or upcycling garments, so the environment always benefits.
Proceeds from Alia’s sale were donated to Kalote Animal Trust, an animal shelter which is home to nearly 400 rescued and abandoned animals.
Bhatt has been been a huge factor in creating demand for plant-based lifestyle products. She has invested in Phool, the company behind Fleather, which produces vegan leather made from discarded temple flowers. Her vegan kidswear line, Ed-a-Mamma, also won a 2021 PETA India fashion award for helping to nurture kids’ love for animals and nature.
She also founded the animal charity organisation CoExist, which highlights and works towards the issues of animal and ecological welfare. She is now also the newest member of the “green card” club of plant-based Indian celebrities.
The 28-year-old actress, who debuted in Student of the Year (2012), is now rising to popularity due to her recent roles in Gangubai, Gully Boy, Brahmāstra, and Dear Zindagi (beside Shah Rukh Khan).
5. Jaqueline Fernandez
Jackie has always been quite vocal against cruelty against all animals. A vegan since 2013, she also helped the ban of Victoria carriages drawn by horses in Mumbai.
She gave up meat for lent in 2013, and hasn’t turned back since. “Going vegan is the best thing you can do to help stop animal suffering, protect the environment and safeguard your own health,” she said in one of her interviews.
During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2021, she worked with petfood manufacturer Drools to feed strays in shelters across Mumbai, which included WSD (Welfare of Stray Dogs) and the Feline Foundation. She shared pictures of her work with the dogs on Instagram, and said her team has been actively working to understand the plight of animals during the pandemic.
What’s interesting to note is that Jackie is originally from Sri Lanka, and has also won the country’s beauty pageant award in 2009. After debuting in Aladin, she bagged bigger roles in Housefull, Race 2, and Roy. She runs the YOLO Foundation, which attends to many social causes simultaneously.
6. Ratan Tata
The most beloved entrepreneurial tycoon in the country, goinng strong at 84 years today, shares a fond love for our canine companions, so much so that a section of his house is dedicated to abandoned and stray furry friends. He has actually created a kennel of sorts to look after stray dogs.
He has also funded Motopaws, the venture of his curious young friend Shantanu Naidu, which creates reflective collars for stray dogs to protect them from being the victims of roadkills.
He had shared the adoption appeal for a paralyzed stray dog named Sprite on his Instagram in 2020, who as successfully adopted in the coming weeks. Commanding a respectable following of 5.8 million users, he has made it possible for several abandoned or homeless animals to get adopted in a matter of days.
His Tata Trusts Foundation runs the flagship feature initiative Creature Comfort, supporting organisations that work for animal welfare in a variety of ways, with different species and in different states. The organizations include AMTM (Animals Matter To Me), PFA (People for Animals), and PRCA (People for Respect and Care of Animals).
There’s a long lineup of noteworthy people who have also played pivotal roles in making this world slightly less cruel for living beings. On that note, here are our honorable mentions.
- Kapil Sharma (Media Personality): The famous TV comedian was applauded for adopting the retired police dog Zanjeer, and was reported to also bring him on sets.
- Dr Shashi Tharoor (Politician & MP): Fought tirelessly to introduce legislations for banning laboratary animal use. Is publicly vegetarian & a generous donor for stray animal ambulances/rescue missions.
- Arjun Rampal (Media Personality): Joined PETA India to fight for horses who were beign forced to pull carriages. Also personally delivered a letter to Indian officials, pleading them to let abused elephants be transferred to a sanctuary.
As you can see, we have quite a number of famous people with us in our fight against animal cruelty. They might not all be perfect vegans (none of us are), but at least they’re doing something to support our cause, for which we should be thankful.
It’s not right to hate on celebrities for “not doing enough” because we have to remember that they’re not obligated to do any of these things.
Their genuine passion shows in all the campaigns that they manage to launch amidst their hectic schedule, and its only a matter of time until all their followers join our community, too. Did you already know about these celebs and their initiatives? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!
Here’s hoping that someday, I get to add your name to the list, too. Keep working hard on your dreams, so that you, too, can have the clout and resources to help millions of needy animals on a large scale. Tathastu!