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Taste The Unsacred Flesh: Veganism In Heavy Metal

Posted by on September 8, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Veganism and vegetarianism in heavy metal has become a significant trend. This always interested me, partially because I credit my own interest in punk and heavy metal with my gradual conversion to vegetarianism (and hopefully one day soon, veganism) Of course – this made me wonder, why? Why is it that heavy metal seems to be so strongly affiliated, statistically speaking, with what is, objectively speaking, a fairly minor, and, in today's society, kind of weird lifestyle choice? That is not to say that metal is dominated by vegetarianism, but rather that bands like GWAR who released a memorable video for PETA have helped to codify its role in the scene. As with anything else tied into old school underground metal, it can be hard to find any sort of accurate documentation, especially since most of this stuff got started before the days of online webzines codifying everything and making it painfully clear who did what first. So I put on my investigators cap to try and figure out why this lifestyle is so important to me, and so many of our favorite extreme music musicians.

Of course, metal icons who identify with vegetarianism were present even in the earliest days of the genre. One need look no further than the gods themselves, Black Sabbath to find out that Geezer Butler is a longtime committed veggie. Butler though never made a big deal about his eating habits and shouldn't be credited with too much of an influence on the eating choices of future metalheads. Perhaps the true root of the growth of vegetarian comes from groups like Napalm Death and Carcass who took the whole thing to a very political place – and that's where it started to matter, in metal at least. Meanwhile in hardcore we certainly can find political vegetarians making moves early on. Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye is perhaps the most famous example in that particular scene, and he definitely had some influence on the guys in both Napalm Death and Carcass. Considering the early material from both of those bands was considered to be a crossover between punk and metal it makes sense that they would be the ones to bring it to the metal world. In a more modern context we see bands like Between The Buried And Me coming out in strong support for PETA, and Cattle Decapitation using their lyrics as a way to communicate a pro-veg message.

I don't want to write an entire article about Carcass's influence on the food politics of metal though, even if the cover of Reek Of Putrefaction did change everything for me, and countless others. Looking at that album art when I was 12 was the first time that I realized that humans are meat, just as much as pigs or cows. What's interesting to consider is that there's been a handful of other influential bands who had ideologies to match that never got nearly as far, and I'm not just talking about the radical right wing groups who dominate the European scene.

What drove me forward was the question, 'Why is it that vegetarianism should reign as an ideology in metal over say, Buddhism?' With that example there certainly have been a wide range of influential bands who supported Buddhist ideologies, like Cynic, and yet they never seemed to end up deeply embedded into the world of heavy metal the way that vegetarianism is.

I feel part of why vegetarianism has really taken off in the metal community is that vegetarianism is a rather extreme ideology. It's one that, like metal, admits that the world is an inherently fucked up place and that we need to work together to carry forward. Furthermore, just like metal's general ideology, vegetarianism is something that requires a fair bit of dedication to really pull off. The one prepares you for the other. If you're already used to having to dig to find the sickest black metal bands, (Or perhaps just the quasi-legendary Vegan Black Metal Chef) the weird inconveniences that sustainable eating choices can force upon you are not going to seem to be as much of a struggle. It is a lot easier to qualify it as just another part of a metalheads life, and an individuals responsibility to mankind.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm not trying to come off as preachy, even if I do genuinely believe that a balanced vegetarian lifestyle is a better option for nearly everyone. Despite how I may make it sound, vegetarianism still isn't especially dominant in the metal scene. It just so happens to be more prevalent than in most other music communities I have observed. If you want to eat meat that's totally your own choice, and vegetarianism is not something that should be undertaken lightly, I fucked it up my first few months as a vegetarian and that almost caused some serious damage. That might be part of why veg lifestyles are still in the minority, Converge only have so much power after all. While it is a good and important life choice to make, I don't want people to dive in unready. Of course, the sooner you dive in, the sooner you will get to realize that a ton of your metal friends have probably already made similar choices and are going to be willing to help you move forward with the lifestyle, creating a better more sustainable future for all of us.

As Morbid Angel famously put it, this is extreme music for extreme people. Metal as a whole implies a level of extremity and dedication that has been wrought by a long history of dedicated and passionate individuals who are working on a largely volunteer basis to create what they genuinely believe will be a better tomorrow. Veganism has its long history in heavy metal because it is coming into a world that embraces that exact kind of thing. Metal, like vegetarianism is about ultimately about a minority fighting against the world. If it's not your cup of tea so be it, but for those of us who seek to make a difference then let your freak flag fly, and let your eating habits reflect that. Metal needs veganism because it gives us another great thing to rally around and prove that we are here to help change the world, and beyond that, it makes you a better Devin Townsend fan, and who doesn't want that? So even if you are an avowed meat eater, I encourage you to consider these ties and see if maybe metal has been priming you for veganism all along.

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  • Thrashing Up Your Ass

    Fuck no this article is retarded

  • Dingleberry

    Eat some meat you pasty cunts

    • Renato

      You complain about vegans but all I see is non-vegans saiying shit in every vegan-related topic.

      • uberfreak

        I'm not vegan but I agree it is fucking pathetic how any article on veganism brings out a horde of pathetic losers desperately trying to prove how badass they are for stuffing their fat faces with hamburgers.

        • mildlyangryjohnny

          A horde? It was like me and 2 other dudes. And fuck off i am only a regular loser. I only chimed in–not to prove bad-assed-ness, but how funny it was that the guy who was reveling in veggie-dom has the last name bacon. And frankly, i couldn't leave it at, "his name is bacon." [Period] i had to add some more shit i thought would be comical. Fucking tickled the shit out of myself, and then you had to go ahead and make a game out of it. It's not about proving badassness, it's a fucking choice and It's a free country. But that choice is fucking hilarious–every single time. And it's always going to be hilarious–right up until mrsa kills all our livestock.

          • uberfreak

            T R I G G E R E D.

          • mildlyangryjohnny

            Did you just stretch your arm out about chest high and drop a microphone? That was adorable.

      • mildlyangryjohnny

        "Metal has a long history of vegetarianism and veganism. We tried to delve into why that connection exists, not just in terms of history but also psychology…"

        This drew me in–kind of provocative. Seemed worthy of a diaper–had to check it out to see if there was an epidemic i wasn't aware of or if i could catch it.

  • mildlyangryjohnny

    His name is bacon. I fucking love bacon. What's even better than bacon? Bacon wrapped around a burger. And the only thing that could make that better is ketchup. Which visually is like murder on a sandwich bun. If you prefer a carrot and some sprouts, have at it–but last i checked a carrot, sprouts and that fucking hummus shit is more for the delicate music afficionados. Like phish and dave matthews fans.

    • uberfreak

      Carrots are metal as fuck! I could easily gouge your eye out with one.

      • mildlyangryjohnny

        That imagery kind of makes me think you want to fuck my eye hole. You don't really want to fuck my eyehole, do you?

        And a carrot isn't metal. It's a lousy root vegetable composed of starches and fiber and shit–presumably–because i am not a fucking botanist–made up of carbon. Not iron. Not metal. Class dismissed. :)

        • more beer

          You win!

        • uberfreak

          Nerd, I want to pry your skull apart with my mighty carrot stick!

        • Cattle Decapitated

          Ever seen A Serbian Film?

          • mildlyangryjohnny

            That's kind of like asking if i've ever seen A Serbian Film.

        • carrots have carbon in them. Cellulose itself contains carbon.

      • Theresajmddox3

        Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !mj168d:
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    • more beer

      Everything is better with bacon! Haven't spoken to you in a while. Hope your doing well.

      • mildlyangryjohnny


    • LocustFarm

      It's mostly about morality and the environment, but by all means, show a lack of awareness for both.

      • mildlyangryjohnny

        It might have something to do with ecology and choice. I think i was having a bit of fun with word association. If i wanted to debate the finer points of this whole slew of nonsense this would not be the forum for it. If you require more academic discussions–you're in the wrong place. But get all upset and bitter if you want.


  • BobC

    seriously….who cares. people eat what you want and live life the way you want.

    • Sir Peras

      I agree with you, but also if everybody cut drastically on their meat and dairy products quota (or whatever the word is) we could tick off World Hunger and a couple other problems off the To Do things list.

  • TreyP

    Interesting article. I think you're on to something about the connection between people willing to invest themselves into a lifestyle like that being more interested in extreme music. I've noticed that to a degree myself. In my own case I can't be a vegetarian due to health reasons, and even if that wasn't a factor, I just like meat too much. But either way, its not my business what other people choose or don't choose to eat.

  • Big Norris

    TL;DR I eat steaks and shit

  • Cougar Karns

    "I just want the meat"!-Noa

  • Joe Rosado

    DRI, though not veg themselves pushed me off the fence with their song Dead Meat. Then I eventually became Vegan, because you can't really be consistent as an ethical vegetarian, there is too much abuse and death in the dairy/egg/clothing industries also.

  • Dead1

    What a delusional article:
    – Not eating meat is not extreme.
    – Metal is not about a minority fighting the world. It's mainly a refuge for male adolescent misfits many of whom grow up to be adult loser male misfits..
    – Some western middle class SJW types not eating meat doesn't change the world for better or worse.
    The only thing you say that is correct is that what we eat is our own choice.
    Personally a world without prosciutto, medium rare steak, salami, smoked salmon, fish chowder, parmigiana , toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, chicken avocado foccaccias, sounds pretty shit.